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Five Journalists Arrested in West Bank, PCHR Warns of Misusing Laws in West Bank and Gaza Strip

Ref: 67/2017

Yesterday and today, the Palestinian General Intelligence Service (GIS) arrested 5 journalists in the West Bank on grounds of leaking sensitive information to hostile parties, according to Wafa Agency, without identifying the hostile entity in question.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows with deep concern this dangerous development which came only 1 month after the arrest of a Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip on similar grounds.  PCHR is also concerned that the division bickering is descending to a very dangerous situation, where the basic rights are denied and public freedoms are totally undermined through misusing the criminalization texts.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, on 08 August 2017, the GIS in the West Bank arrested 5 journalists from different parts in the West Bank.  Mamdouh Mahmoud Hamamrah (33), Reporter at al-Quds Satellite Channel, and Qotaybah Saleh Qasem (29), a freelance journalist, both from Bethlehem, were arrested. On the same day, GIS also arrested Tariq ‘Abdel Razeq Abu Zaid (42), from Nablus and Reporter at al-Aqsa Satellite Channel, and ‘Amer ‘Abdul Halim Mohammed Abu ‘Arafah (35), from Hebron and Reporter at Shihab News Agency.  On Wednesday, 09 August 2017, GIS also arrested Mohammed Ahmed Halayqah (31), from Hebron and Reporter at Al-Quds Satellite Channel.

According to Wafa News Agency, which is an official agency, a ranking Palestinian security source said, “the four journalists held by the security services are accused of leaking sensitive information to hostile parties, and the matter is so far under investigation. The four journalists were identified as Mamdouh Hamamrah, Tariq Abu Zaid, Amer Abu Arafeh and Qotaybah Qasem. The agency mentioned nothing about the fifth journalist Halayqah.

On 08 June 2017, the Internal Security Service (ISS) in the Gaza Strip arrested journalist Foad Jamal Jaradah (33), Reporter at Palestine TV in Gaza, from his house in Tal al-Hawa neighborhood. Foad was later accused of collaborating with Ramallah and was interrogated for consecutive weeks. He is so far under arrest.

PCHR follows up with concern the measures taken by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and warns of the arbitrary use of legal texts or fabricating charges to beat their political rivals. This results in serious consequences on the legal system, rights and freedoms in general.

PCHR emphasizes that the accused persons should be granted of their full rights within proper procedures that respect their constitutional and humanitarian rights, in particular the right to not being subjected to arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial and the right to proper due process. Moreover, PCHR stresses on committing to the Criminal Procedure Code related to arrest and investigation, and the accused persons’ right to have access to a lawyer.

PCHR calls for releasing the six journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, until the validity of the charges against them will be proven in accordance with proper and transparent procedures.