Alaa al-Rimawi

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Palestinian journalist Alaa al-Rimawi, the director of the Israeli-banned J-Media agency, has been held in Israeli administrative detention since November 2023. 

The journalist turned himself in at Ofer Prison on October 19, 2023 after Israeli military forces raided his home in Ramallah while he was undergoing medical examinations at a hospital, arrested his son, and notified his family that he had to surrender himself to Israeli custody, according to Palestinian press freedom organization MADA, the Lebanese regional press freedom group SKeyes, and a video al-Rimawi posted on TikTok while he was in the hospital.

On November 20, al-Rimawi’s wife told CPJ that her husband had been placed in administrative detention for six months, but did not know the exact date the detention began. She believes al-Rimawi had been transferred to Nafha Prison, outside the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, but was unable to confirm his location. Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge if they suspect the detainee of planning to commit a future offense, and then extend the detention an unlimited number of times, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Judges may accept evidence against the detainee without disclosing it on security grounds. 

On October 16, three days prior to al-Rimawi’s arrest at Ofer Prison, the IDF ordered J-Media agency to shut down, according to MADA and the London-based news website The New Arab. In a statement, the IDF described the media outlet as “an illegal organization” and said its closure was necessary for “the sake of the security of the State of Israel and for the safety of the public and public order,” those sources said, adding that J-Media complied and ceased operations. Al-Rimawi told SKeyes that Israeli authorities had not informed him of the decision to close J-Media and he had found out about it in the media. 

Al-Rimawi’s family told CPJ that they believe he is being held over his social media posting, though they didn’t specify which posts. Al-Rimawi, counts 43,000 followers on Facebook and 229,500 on TikTok. Since the beginning of the 2023 Israel-Gaza war, he has shared political commentary, including criticism of what he described as Arab governments’ failure to support Palestinians in Gaza, demands for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza and for Palestinian telecommunications companies to provide free credit to Gazans so they can continue rescue efforts. He has also urged people to post videos demanding an end to war in Gaza to put pressure on media and foreign governments.

Al-Rimawi is one of the 17 Palestinian journalists in Israeli custody – including four who work for J-Media — as of December 1, 2023, the date of CPJ’s annual prison census. Palestinian officials say Israeli forces have conducted mass arrests in the occupied West Bank since October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, prompting Israel to declare war on the militant group. Dozens of members of the press have died, the vast majority Palestinian journalists and media workers killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. There have also been numerous reports of assault, threats, cyberattacks, and censorship. 

This wasn’t the journalist’s first arrest. In July 2018, Israeli security forces arrested al-Rimawi, then the director of the banned Hamas-affiliated broadcaster Al-Quds TV in the West Bank, and held him for nearly one month; upon his release, he was ordered to stop working as a journalist for two months, according to news reports. 

In late April 2021, Israeli forces again arrested al-Rimawi from his home and held him in administrative detention for six weeks, news reports said. 

CPJ emailed the Israel Security Agency, also known as the Shin Bet, in late 2023 for comment on the cases of imprisoned Palestinian journalists but received no response.