New York, August 5, 2022 – Israeli authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Amer Abu Arafa and allow reporters to travel freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On August 1, the Ofer Israeli Military Court ordered Abu Arafa, a correspondent for the London-based Quds Press News Agency, to be held in administrative detention for four months, according to Quds Press and the MADA Center, a Palestinian press freedom organization.
A representative for the Israel Defense Forces’ North America desk told CPJ via email that authorities were investigating Abu Arafa for alleged membership in a terrorist organization. Israeli forces raided Abu Arafa’s home and arrested him July 19, as CPJ reported at the time.
Separately, Israeli border guards blocked Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassouna, a reporter with the Turkish broadcaster TRT, from leaving the Israeli-occupied West Bank on July 25, according to reports from MADA and the Skeyes Center for Media Freedom, a regional press freedom organization.
“Whether they use prison walls or travel bans, Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “Israeli authorities should immediately release all detained journalists including Amer Abu Arafa, and end the use of arbitrary detention and travel bans against the press.”
On July 25, Israeli border guards stopped Hassouna from leaving the West Bank to cross into Jordan, according to those reports by MADA and Skeyes.
Border guards held Hassouna’s passport for two hours before telling her that she was forbidden from traveling, without giving any reason. The MADA Center reported that Israeli authorities previously barred Hassouna from traveling in 2020 and 2021.
Additionally, CPJ is investigating Israeli forces’ recent detention of Faisal al-Rifai, who was sentenced on August 3 to six months in administrative detention for allegedly being a member of a terrorist group; al-Rifai was described in news reports as a freelance journalist but CPJ was unable to immediately find examples of his work since 2017.
CPJ is also investigating reports that Israeli border forces blocked Palestinian journalist Mujahid al-Saadi from leaving the West Bank to enter Jordan on July 26; CPJ was similarly unable to find examples of al-Saadi’s work in recent years.
CPJ emailed the Israel Defense Forces North America desk for comment on al-Rifai, Hassouna, and al-Saadi’s cases. In a response received after publication, a spokesperson said al-Rifai was placed in administrative detention on suspicion of involvement in Hamas activities. The spokesperson did not respond to CPJ’s questions about Hassouna and al-Saadi’s cases.
[Editor’s note: The last paragraph has been updated with a partial response from the IDF.]