The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) arrested Palestinian freelance journalist Belal Arman, who contributed to the now-banned J-Media news agency, on October 27, 2023, and he was later placed in administrative detention for four months.
IDF forces surrounded Arman’s home in the West Bank town of Kharbatha Bani Harith, west of Ramallah, asked him to produce identification and a cell phone, and then arrested him, according to the Palestinian press freedom organization MADA, the Beirut-based press regional freedom organization SKeyes, and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate.
Arman’s cousin, Sameh Arman, told CPJ that the family has received no information about the reason for his arrest and that on November 9 he was placed in administrative detention for four months. The official Commission of Detainees Affairs also named Arman in a list of Palestinians placed in administrative detention on that date. The journalist is held in Ofer Prison in the West Bank.
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.
A freelance camera operator and photographer, Arman has contributed mainly to the Palestinian J-Media agency, covering local news, including destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli army and protests to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners. Arman also shares videos and photos on his personal Instagram and Facebook accounts, which count more than 600 and 3,500 followers, respectively. In August, he posted on Facebook about the 21st anniversary of the imprisonment of his father, Hamas leader Mohammad Arman, who is serving multiple life sentences for his involvement in a 2002 suicide bombing at a cafe in Jerusalem that killed 11 Israelis, according to news reports.
On October 16, the IDF ordered the 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.
Arman is one of 17 Palestinian journalists in Israeli custody—four of whom worked for J-Media —as of December 1, 2023, the date of CPJ’s annual prison census. According to Palestinian officials, 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.
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.