Sabri Jibril

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Israel Defense Forces arrested Palestinian journalist Sabri Jibril, a reporter for the West Bank-based J-Media agency, on October 15, 2023, and later placed him in administrative detention for six months in Megiddo Prison in northern Israel. The day after his arrest, Israel banned J-Media on security grounds. 

Around 25 IDF soldiers raided Jibril’s home in Tuqu’, southeast of Bethlehem, for 20 minutes in the early hours before taking Jibril away in a military vehicle, according to the Palestinian press freedom group MADA, citing an interview with Jibril’s brother. J-Media also reported the arrest on Facebook. 

Jibril’s brother, who asked not to be named for safety reasons, told CPJ that they believe that the journalist was arrested for his social media commentary on the 2023 Israel-Gaza war, though they did not specify what comments.

In the days prior to his arrest, Jibril posted commentary on his Facebook page about the war, including a video of the funeral of a person allegedly deported from Bethlehem to the Gaza Strip, pictures of journalists Mohammed Sobh and Saeed al-Taweel, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike, and a photo of Jibril’s dead cousin. Jibril’s reporting in the weeks before he was arrested include human interest stories, local news, coverage of protests against Israeli settlers south of Bethlehem, and reports on alleged attempts by Israeli settlers to take over Palestinian areas by erecting tents. 

According to an October 26 Facebook post by the official Commission of Detainees Affairs and Jibril’s brother, Jibril was placed in administrative detention in Megiddo Prison for six months. 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 day after his arrest, the IDF ordered 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. 

Jibril is one of at least 17 Palestinian journalists in Israeli custody – four of whom 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, leading 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. 

In November 2021, Jibril was briefly arrested by Israeli forces and held for questioning for several hours about posts on his personal Facebook page that Israeli officials alleged contained inciting material, Jibril told Beirut-based press freedom group SKeyes. 

“The interrogating officer reviewed the news about Jerusalem that I published on my private Facebook page, namely what it’s happening in the city in terms of attacks, violations, and casualties resulting from Israeli attacks,” Jibril said in November 2021. The investigating officer ended the questioning by threatening him with harsher punishment if he was caught again.

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.