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Israel now holding 13 Palestinian journalists

Two Palestinian journalists were arrested by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem yesterday and were placed in administrative detention today, bringing the total now held administratively by the Israelis to 13. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Israel’s misuse of administrative detention to hound Palestinian reporters.

A video showing yesterday’s arrest of the two Alkofiya TV journalists has angered local organisations. It shows police leading reporter Zaina Halawani and cameraman Wahbi Mikeh out of the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah where they were covering tension among residents about the threat of evictions. Today a court ordered them detained administratively for five days.

A week ago, on 21 May, an Israeli judge ordered an 11-day extension to the administrative detention of another Palestinian journalist, Alghad TV cameraman Hazem Nasser, who was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint at the entrance to the West Bank town of Tlkarm on 12 May as he was returning from Nablus, 40 km to the south, where he had been filming clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian residents. His family told RSF they don’t know what he is charged with.

Ahmad Azaizeh, a blogger who freelances for various outlets including Bokra.net, a local news site, was arrested at his home in Nazareth, in northern Israel, on 12 May after covering clashes between Palestinian citizens and Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, and was placed in administrative detention for “inciting hatred.” A subsequent order was issued extending his detention until 17 May, but he was not released when that order expired.

The repeated recourse to administrative detention exempts the Israeli authorities from having to bring charges and allows them to prolong detention indefinitely, which is unacceptable,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Palestinian journalists are just doing their job and should not, under any circumstances, be presumed to be guilty.

According to RSF’s tally, the Israeli authorities are currently holding a total of at least 13 Palestinian journalists. They include Alaa Al-Rimawi, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the West Bank city of Ramallah and head of the online news agency J-Media, who has been held since 22 April without any official charge being brought against him. A court initially ordered three months of administrative detention for Rimawi but reduced it to 45 days after he went on hunger strike for 16 days.

The only Palestinian woman journalist currently detained, Bushra Al-Taweel, has been held since 8 November 2020, when she arrested on the road from Ramallah to Nablus. Although no charge has been brought against her, her administrative detention was extended for another four months on 7 March. She was previously held without any charge for a total of 230 days, from December 2019 to July 2020.

Israel is ranked 86th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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