Israel's Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks with the media in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. Ben-Gvir recently ordered the Voice of Palestine radio station's operations to be shut down in Israel. (ReutersAbir Sultan)

Israeli authorities shutter Voice of Palestine radio’s Israel operations, question 5 journalists

New York, March 20, 2023 – Israeli authorities should immediately reverse their order to shut down the Israeli operations of the Voice of Palestine radio station and should cease harassing members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

On Monday, March 20, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered Voice of Palestine, the official broadcaster of the Palestinian Authority government, to be barred from operating within Israel, according to multiple news reports. After the order was issued, Israeli police officers arrived at the company’s offices in East Jerusalem and informed the staff about the ban, those reports said.

Later Monday, Israeli police summoned five Palestinian journalists based in East Jerusalem for questioning, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Middle East war. Its subsequent annexation of that part of the city is not recognized internationally.

“Israeli authorities must reverse their order to close the Voice of Palestine’s operations in Israel, which was issued without citing any specific problems with its coverage,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Palestinian journalists should be able to do their jobs freely, without fear of being interrogated, harassed, or obstructed from doing their work.”

Ben-Gvir’s order bars Voice of Palestine from operating within Israel but does not stop the outlet from continuing its work in the West Bank or Gaza, according to those news reports. In his decree, Ben-Gvir did not specify any specific reason for blocking the station, but said “we will not allow incitement and support for terrorism and terrorists, neither by the Palestinian Authority nor by any other body.”

Later on Monday, Israeli police in East Jerusalem summoned Palestinian reporters Layali Eid and Lana Kamela, photographers Yazan Haddad and Walid Kamar, and camera operator Firas Handawi, according to news reports, social media posts, and Kamar, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

Amir Abbas, director of the Marcel production company, which works with the Voice of Palestine’s parent company the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation among other outlets, told CPJ by phone that the five journalists had contributed to various local outlets including those operated by the PBC.

Kamar told CPJ that police interrogated him about his work with the PBC. He and Abbas said that police gave all five journalists a verbal warning to cease collaborating with the PBC from Jerusalem, and then released them without filing any formal charges. Abbas said authorities also summoned him, interrogated him for hours, and gave him a similar warning.

Israeli authorities closed the PBC’s Jerusalem office in 2018, according to news reports.

CPJ emailed the Israel Defense Forces for comment, and a representative referred CPJ to the National Security Ministry. CPJ emailed the ministry for comment but did not receive any reply.

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to note the status of East Jerusalem.