Israel Defense Forces arrested Palestinian journalist Moath Amarneh, a photographer and cameraman for the West Bank-based J-Media agency, on October 16, the same day that Israel banned J-Media on security grounds. Amarneh, who lost his left eye to an Israeli rubber bullet while covering protests in 2019, was placed in administrative detention for six months on October 29 in Megiddo Prison and beaten by prison officers.
According to the Palestinian press freedom group MADA and news reports, 12 Israeli soldiers stormed into Amarneh´s home in the Dheisheh refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, and handcuffed him. One of the soldiers forced Amarneh to speak to an officer over the phone, who asked Amarneh about the nature of his work. When he said that he was a journalist, the officer informed him that he was under arrest for incitement. Soldiers then seized Amarneh´s cell phone and took him away. He was provided access to a lawyer, who has been able to visit him in prison, according to news reports.
Amarneh’s family members told CPJ that they believe he was arrested for his social media commentary on the 2023 Israel-Gaza war, but did not say which post prompted his arrest.
In the days prior to his arrest, Amarneh posted on his personal Facebook account, which counts some 22,000 followers, about the Israel-Gaza war, including videos about bombings in Gaza, displaced and injured children, and a picture of his J-Media colleague Sabri Jibril, who was arrested by Israeli forces October 15.
The day of Amarneh’s arrest, the IDF ordered the J-Media agency to shut down, according to the Palestinian press freedom group 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.
On October 29, Amarneh was placed in administrative detention for six months in Megiddo Prison in northern Israel, according to MADA and news reports. 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.
According to news reports and MADA, Amarneh was beaten by Israeli prison officers on November 10, resulting in a head injury. He said that the prison guards hit him, breaking his glasses, after he told them he was previously wounded in the head in 2019, which left him with persistent headaches. Israeli authorities have refused to take him to the hospital to receive the treatment he needs for headaches and diabetes, according to MADA. Amarneh also told his lawyer that his cell is overcrowded and he is forced to sleep on the floor.
Amarneh is one of 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.
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.