Ahmed Darawish

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Darawish, the manager of Al-Sanabel Radio, was arrested by Israeli soldiers from his home in the West Bank town of Dura during the night on August 31, 2016, his lawyer Mahmoud Hassan told CPJ. Three journalists and a media worker at the local radio station, which employed eight people, were arrested the same date and Israel Defense Forces raided the channel’s headquarters, seizing broadcasting equipment and using a court order to shut down the outlet for at least three months, Palestinian media reported.

An Israeli military court on November 22, 2017, sentenced three of the station’s employees, but adjourned Darawish’s case until December 5, according to news reports.

CPJ has reviewed a translated summary of the Israeli Military Prosecution’s indictment against Darawish, in which he is charged with “incitement, support of a hostile organization…performing a service for a hostile organization … [and] the publication of reports of military value,” in which he is accused of encouraging violence against Israeli soldiers and civilians through al-Sanabel broadcasts, revealing information about the location of Israel Defense Forces personnel in Dura through broadcasts, and supporting and aiding Hamas. He is also accused of hiring staff who broadcast inciting material and being responsible for their content.

The indictment says it is an offence to publish reports of military value. It adds that in the two years before his arrest Darawish had shared on his Facebook page and via the radio station details including the location and movement of troops, current or planned actions, and details of weapons and supplies. It added that this information was given “in conjunction with playing songs that signify a call to attack security forces.”

The arrests came during an especially tense period, amid a wave of Palestinians stabbing Israeli soldiers and civilians, and Israeli security forces shooting assailants, alleged assailants, and protesters. Israeli officials have accused Palestinian news outlets, as well as individuals on Facebook, of encouraging Palestinian attacks and inciting violence with their broadcasts. Several Palestinian channels have been closed down in the past year and dozens of individuals–including journalists–have been arrested for incitement, either through the media or on Facebook, according to media reports.

Darawish’s indictment gives seven examples of incitement allegedly carried out through Al-Sanabel Radio broadcasts from July 4, 2016 to August 20, 2016.

In four of the examples, Al-Sanabel staff were reporting live on Israel Defense Forces nighttime raids in Dura and providing updates on the location of soldiers. No examples of employees using language that directly incited imminent violence are provided in the indictment. Breaks in the live broadcasts were filled with music and speeches that the indictment describes as “incendiary.”

Some of the song lyrics and speeches quoted in the indictment include:

“I will never put down my weapon… my weapon will forever remain in my hands… My weapon stays, my weapon stays.”

“I’m coming at you oh my enemy, from every house, and neighborhood and street, with my weapon and my faith, I’m coming at you.”

“The land of Palestine is for you respected ones, those who raise the knife and the stone. We will destroy Israel and protect our land… Street war has begun in Palestine… We will deny you movement oh settlers… Our border is from sea to sea… The masked men have left the mosques and Palestine flags are in every corner. Going down to the square with a stone in my hand, destined for the enemy… And the old man holds the gun in his hands.”

“Say Allahu akbar, burn those who wear green. The youngest boy will burn the jeep. Oh Yossi, tell all your dogs, Dura will throw a revolution and the smallest child will burn a jeep. There are boys in Dura who will burn your army if it advances, oh Yossi. You will regret it.”

A journalist from Al-Sanabel denied that the station was inciting violence through its content. In an interview in Dura, the journalist–who asked not to be named for fear of arrest–said the songs were on a pre-selected playlist and aired to allow the hosts a break during long reporting shifts, rather than coordinated to follow particular news stories or encourage violence. “The songs we chose to play are patriotic. They are mostly from the Second Intifada and everybody knows them,” the journalist said. “Palestinians have been playing the same songs for years, so why are they suddenly now incitement?”

The journalist said none of the songs and speeches aired by Al-Sanabel that were cited in the official indictment were written or produced by the radio station.

The other three examples of incitement in the indictment consist of sharing content on Al-Sanabel’s Facebook page that commemorated and glorified the life of Mohammed al-Fakih, a Dura resident killed by the Israel Defense Forces in a shootout on July 27, 2016, three weeks after he killed Israeli Rabbi Michael Mark and wounding three others.

The first examples cited were posted on July 29, 2016. In the first, Al-Sanabel called on listeners to attend a rally in Dura to celebrate al-Fakih.

The second live streamed the rally on the Facebook page. During the rally, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh addresses the crowd via phone.

In the third example, on August 20 a trailer for a movie about al-Fakih was posted on its page. It showed a reconstruction of the killing of Mark and clips of interviews with family members describing al-Fakih’s actions as heroic.

Hassan, Al-Sanabel’s attorney, said Israel did not have a clear, public definition of incitement through the media, and this posed a challenge for journalists who do not know what content is within the law and what is illegal. He added that he had seen a “big rise” in incitement cases in 2016.

In a statement emailed to CPJ on October 10, 2016, the Israel Defense Forces’ Public Appeals Office said, “The IDF sees freedom of speech and freedom of press as fundamental rights… but we draw a clear line between expressing an opinion (including criticizing the government) and abuse of rights in order to encourage acts of terrorism … and inciting the harm of civilians.”

As of late 2017, the Israel Defense Forces had not responded to CPJ’s emailed request for new information on the journalist’s status.