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PCHR Condemns Restrictions on Freedom of Journalistic Work in Gaza

Ref:40/2020

At approximately 12:30 on Saturday, 25 April 2020, Palestinian police in Gaza city arrested a Palestine TV Satellite’s press crew while recording an interview in Jabalia refugee camp, claiming that they did not the necessary authorization for photography and conducting interviews. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the imposition of illegal and unlawful restrictions on the freedom of press work and affirms that photography and press interviews do not require permission from any party, except in pre-defined and announced security area.

The crew, which included journalist Mohammed Ziyadah Issa Nassar (43), from Jabalia, and correspondent Mohammed Salim Salamah Abu Hatab (50), were shooting a report in al-Truns area in the center of Jabalia refugee camp when they were interrupted and detained, according to their statement to PCHR:

“We were preparing a report at the center of Jabalia refugee camp on the onset of Ramadan and the movement of commercial markets under the difficult living conditions in Gaza. As we were interviewing a member of the public, a group of police officers came to us and one of them, ranked as a major, asked us  who we worked for, and if we had a permit. We were detained  and then taken to the head office of the General Investigation Service at Jabalia police station. We were detained and interrogated about our work. Two hours later, we were released after signing a pledge not to photograph or conduct interviews, except with prior permission from the Government Media Office.”

PCHR affirms that freedom of the press is protected by Palestinian Basic Law, as stipulated in Article (27): Freedom of audio, visual, and written media, as well as freedom to print, publish, distribute and transmit, together with the freedom of individuals working in this field, shall be guaranteed by this Basic Law and other related laws.”

 PCHR considers the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of press is a clear violation of Palestine’s obligations under Article (19) of the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights, as a State party to the Convention.

Additionally, PCHR emphasizes that there is no law that forces journalists to obtain permission to do their work, including freedom of photography and interviewing, so long as this work is not conducted in a previously identified restricted area. PCHR also stresses that freedom of expression should not be affected by the declared state of emergency to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

PCHR highlights that freedom of press work is an inalienable right and condemns the detainment of Palestine TV’s press crew and stopping them from doing their work. Therefore, PCHR calls upon the Government Media Office at Gaza City to provide a clear statement that removes speculations and refutes the need to obtain an advance authorization for journalists to conduct their work in public spaces.

Lastly, PCHR calls upon the Public Prosecution in Gaza City to take the necessary measures against those who detained and arrested the journalists illegally.