Amro, a presenter at Al-Sanabel Radio station, was arrested by the Israel Defense Forces 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 Defence 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.
A translated summary of the Israeli Military Prosecution’s official indictment against Amro, reviewed by CPJ, reads, “Over the past three years, Al-Sanabel has been broadcasting much incendiary content encouraging harm to and revolt against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The journalists are accused of having “routinely published the location of security forces, their movements, and their current actions…in conjunction with playing songs that signify a call to attack security forces.” They are also accused of “support for a hostile organization [Hamas].”
The arrests came during a 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.
Amro’s reporting is cited in three of the seven examples of alleged incitement at the station. Two of the three broadcasts, on July 4, 2016 and July 27, 2016, have been reviewed by CPJ. The third, dated July 12, 2016, was no longer publically available as of October 12, 2016. No examples of Amro using language that directly incites imminent violence in the broadcasts are provided in the indictment.
In the broadcasts reviewed by CPJ, Amro was in the studio reporting live on nighttime house raids in Dura, interviewing correspondents and residents, and providing updates on the movement and location of soldiers. Amro regularly called on listeners to be aware of Israel Defence Forces’ activity in the town, to be careful while raids are going on, and to contribute information in real time on Al-Sanabel’s Facebook page. The July 27 broadcast covered the raid on Mohammed al-Fakih’s house, a Palestinian from Dura who had killed rabbi Michael Mark and injured three others in a drive-by shooting three weeks earlier. Breaks in live broadcasts were filled with music.
“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 to remain anonymous for fear of arrest, said the songs were on pre-selected playlist, and were 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 official indictment had been 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 that 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, the Israel Defence 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.”
The indictment also states Amro is accused of inciting violence through Facebook posts, which CPJ has reviewed. On October 16, 2015, Amro posted a picture of a Palestinian chasing a soldier with a knife, and wrote, “We will chase them in every street, every alley, every home and every neighborhood. Your strength in our land is dying.” On February 24, 2016 the indictment describes Amro as posting a picture of a Palestinian who carried out a stabbing in Gush Etzion settlement, with a comment that read, “You are one of a kind…perpetrator of the heroic stabbing operation.” CPJ found that Amro did not write the comment himself, but shared another person’s photograph that included the description as part of the image. On July 27, 2016, Amro posted three picture of al-Fakih’s bloodied clothes, saying: “…Yes, I held Muhammad’s clothes in my trembling hands, and etched into my heart and memory Muhammad’s message and will, and the last word he said, ‘either victory or martyrdom.'”
Several other examples of alleged Facebook incitement listed in the indictment show Amro sharing Al-Sanabel radio broadcasts, and posting updates about clashes in the town, such as, “The occupation has invaded Dura, concentrating in more than one location. They are also shooting live bullets, rubber bullets, and tear and stun grenades.
As of late 2017, the Israel Defense Forces had not responded to CPJ’s emailed request for new information on the journalist’s status.