Israeli forces raided the Jerusalem office of a university media institute on Monday, shutting down the launch of an online media network and detaining employees.
Plainclothes police shut down the launch of the Hona al-Quds news site in the al-Khalidiya neighbourhood of Jerusalem’s Old City, and confiscated equipment and files, network director Harun Abu Arrah said.
Two employees, Adel Ruished and Mohannad Izheman, were detained and guests attending the launch were blocked from entering.
Employees were presented with an order signed by the Israeli minister of internal security forbidding the event as a banned initiative of the Palestinian Authority, the director of Al-Quds University Institute for Modern Media, Lucy Nusseibeh, said.
The university, which launched Hona al-Quds, has been registered as an independent non-governmental organisation with Israeli authorities for decades, Nusseibeh added.
The launch was intended to take place simultaneously with the institute’s Ramallah office by Skype.
Izheman, a university security guard, has since been released with a summons to return to police offices on Tuesday, and Ruished, the university’s Administrative Director of Jerusalem Affairs, is still being held, a university statement said on Monday.
An Israeli police spokesman said he was looking into the incident.
‘This is the second attack on our media institution in five weeks – this is education and not a political project,’ Nusseibeh said.
In late February, Israeli forces raided the institute’s Al-Quds Educational TV in Ramallah-district Al-Bireh and confiscated its broadcasting equipment, claiming it was interrupting legal broadcasting.
The same day, Israeli forces also raided Watan TV’s newsroom in Ramallah and seized transmitters.
Reporters Without Borders said at the time it was ‘deeply shocked’ by the raids.
‘These arbitrary and illegal operations served yet again to intimidate Palestinian media and journalists, the victims of repeated attacks by the (Israeli army),’ the group said in a statement.
• Former hunger-striker Hana Shalabi said on Monday she does not consider herself a deportee, a day after arriving in the Gaza Strip under a deal to end her detention without charge.
‘I am happy to be among family and loved ones’ in Gaza, she said from Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.
Shalabi, from Jenin, ended a 43-day hunger strike last Thursday after reaching a deal with Israeli authorities that she will be sent to Gaza for three years before returning home.
She arrived in Gaza on Sunday to an official welcome by various factions and was transferred to hospital, where her condition was described as no longer life-threatening.
Human rights groups slammed the terms of her deal, and the International Committee of the Red Cross urged Israel ‘to comply with international humanitarian law, which prohibits Israel, whatever its motives, from forcibly transferring Palestinians to another territory.’
Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel said in a joint statement that they feared the restriction of Shalabi’s access to doctors and lawyers, in addition to the prevention of family visits, were used as coercion.
Shalabi said on Monday that Israeli authorities tried to blackmail her to end her hunger-strike against detention without charge, but she drew strength from former hunger-striker Khader Adnan to resist these efforts.
She expressed gratitude to Palestinians and ‘all the free people in the world’ for supporting her during the strike.
‘I cannot find words to thank all those who supported me and sympathised with my cause,’ Shalabi said.
‘I am proud of all of you, and I hereby confirm that I have moved from the field of direct confrontation with the (Israeli) occupation to the field of supporting all prisoners who face their jailers with a firm will and steadfastness,’ she said.
She also thanked Palestinian media for covering her strike, as well as Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Abdullah Shallah.
Shalabi is being monitored by specialized nutritionists at the hospital while she recovers. Medics say her condition is stable but she will stay in hospital for a few days for medical precautions.
Shifa Hospital Director Nasser al-Tatar said that Shalabi has significant weight loss, low blood pressure and poor kidney function.
l Meanwhile, a Palestinian magistrates court ruled on Monday to release a journalist jailed for a week over his report in the Jordanian press, on bail of 5,000 Jordanian dinars.
Yousef al-Shayeb will be freed while investigation of the case is ongoing, the court said.
Last Wednesday a Palestinian court extended his remand in jail for 15 days. He is under investigation for libel and defamation for a newspaper article he published in January.
Al-Shayeb was jailed after a complaint filed by Foreign Minister Riyad Malki and Hael al-Fahoum, the envoy in Paris.
His report in Al-Ghad newspaper documented corruption allegations against the Palestinian diplomatic delegation in France, the Palestinian National Fund and the foreign minister.
Al-Malki last Thursday defended his role in the reporter’s arrest, after the Palestinian journalists union held protests and called for members to boycott a press freedom prize announced by the PA days earlier.
‘I’m surprised some journalists reacted emotionally on behalf of their colleague without hearing the other side’s case, or considering for a moment if Yousef al-Shayeb is the oppressor or the oppressed,’ the foreign minister said.
He maintains al-Shayeb knew beforehand of falsehoods in his report, which claims al-Malki illegally promoted a diplomat to the post of deputy ambassador despite having knowledge of his ties to foreign intelligence.
The attorney general said on Sunday the PA sees ‘no problem’ in detaining journalists who break the law.
‘Any journalist is allowed to publish any information he wants to, after proving it with evidence rather than basing it on (rumours on) Facebook and other networking sites,’ Ahmad al-Maghni said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had last Friday called for al-Shayeb’s release, warning that the case will lead to self-censorship and undermine public trust in the media.
‘The protection of sources is universally accepted as an essential tenet of independent reporting,’ IFJ president Jim Boumelha said in a statement.
‘Journalists the world over will be outraged that Shayeb has been sentenced for upholding such a basic principle. He has no case to answer and should be released immediately,’ he said.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), an IFJ affiliate, said well-known journalist in Palestine al-Shayeb, was initially held for two days by the authorities in Palestine who wanted to know the source of the information in the article, alleging corruption on the part of the Palestinian envoy in Paris.
He refused to cooperate and a court ordered last Wednesday that he be detained for 15 days.
The PJS, which also condemned his detention, decided to boycott the Palestinian Authority’s press freedom award and called on all journalists to follow suit, in solidarity with Shayeb.
The IFJ fully supports the PJS’ stand and warns that this measure is likely to lead to self-censorship and undermine public trust in the Palestinian media, thus restricting their ability to inform the citizens on their leaders’ conduct in public office.
‘Failure to enforce the confidentiality of journalists’ sources will allow powerful figures to evade legitimate scrutiny,’ added Boumelha.
‘This is not only bad for press freedom but also for democratic rule.’