Imran, a presenter at Al-Sanabel Radio station, was arrested by Israeli soldiers from his home in the West Bank town of Dura during the night of August 31, 2016, his lawyer Mahmoud Hassan told CPJ. The station’s owner, three other journalists, and a media worker at the local radio station, which employed eight people, were arrested the same day 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 Imran to 16 months in prison for incitement of violence, according to news reports.
CPJ has reviewed a translated summary of the Israeli Military Prosecution’s indictment against Imran, in which he is accused of inciting violence, revealing information about the location of Israel Defense Forces personnel, and praising terrorists in his broadcasts.
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.
Imran’s indictment lists seven examples of alleged incitement in Al-Sanabel Radio broadcasts. Reporting by Imran is cited in just one of the examples, on July 27, 2016, in a broadcast which has been reviewed by CPJ. No examples of Imran using language that incites imminent violence are provided in the indictment. The only examples listed in the indictment are examples of incitement come from the songs and speeches played between news broadcasts.
On July 27, 2016, Imran was in the studio reporting live on a raid on a house where Mohammed al-Fakih, a Dura resident who killed Israeli Rabbi Michael Mark and injured three others in a drive-by shooting three weeks earlier, was hiding. Imran broadcasted updates for over an hour, covering the position of soldiers, the closure of parts of Dura and surrounding villages, and clashes between residents and the Israel Defense Forces. He called on listeners to be aware of Israel Defense Forces activity and to contribute information in real time on Al-Sanabel’s Facebook page.
In a broadcast reviewed by CPJ, the broadcaster did not use violent rhetoric or incite listeners to take action.
Breaks in the live broadcast 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.”
A journalist from Al-Sanabel denied that the station was inciting violence through its content. In an interview in Dura, the journalist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of arrest, said the songs were on 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 cited in the indictment were written or produced by the radio station.
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.”
In the indictment, Imran is also accused of inciting violence through his personal Facebook page by publishing the location of forces, videos of clashes and sharing reporting from Al-Sanabel.
The indictment provides one specific example of alleged incitement, saying he posted an image of Mohammed Ali and captioned it “commander of the knives.” The indictment did not date the post, and CPJ could not locate it when reviewing his page on October 11, 2016. The indictment likely refers to 19-year-old Mohammed Saeed Ali. Ali who was shot dead while stabbing three officers on October 10, 2015 in East Jerusalem, according to news reports.
As of late 2017, the Israel Defense Forces had not responded to CPJ’s emailed request for new information on the journalist’s status.