They include four journalists working for the Lebanon-based Al Quds satellite TV channel – Ramallah bureau chief Alaa Rimawi, reporters Mohamed Hamdan and Qoteiba Hamdan and cameraman Hosni Injas – who were arrested at dawn on 30 July.
The Israeli TV channel I24 said they were arrested on suspicion of inciting hatred via Al Quds, which the Israeli defence ministry effectively banned at the start of July, describing it as the “propaganda wing” of Hamas – the movement that controls the Gaza Strip – and as a platform for disseminating messages for this “terrorist organization.”
Mohamed Anwar Mouna, a journalist with the pro-Hamas Al Quds Press agency who also manages a local radio station in Nablus, was arrested by Israeli soldiers at his home yesterday.
The columnist Lama Khater was arrested by Israeli soldiers at dawn on 24 July in a wave of arrests of Palestinians regarded as Hamas supporters. In arresting Khater, the Israeli security forces kept a promise to detain her if she continued writing, Al Jazeera said.
“Palestinian journalists held solely for political reasons must be released at once,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “In the absence of any proof to the contrary, these journalists have committed no crime justifying their detention, which is therefore completely arbitrary.”
The ban imposed by the Israeli authorities on Al Quds is supposed to concern Israeli territory but the arrests were carried out in the West Bank, a procedure often used by the Israeli security forces.
According to the MADA, an NGO that defends Palestinian journalists, the Israeli military closed a total of 17 Palestinian media outlets last year, accusing some of them of providing video footage to pro-Hamas TV channels such as Al Aqsa and Al Quds. The closures were accompanied by arrests of journalists, some of whom were held for several months.
Mohamed Hamdan, one of the Al Quds reporters arrested on 30 July, was already detained in an Israeli prison for several days last February after filming a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners, while Rimawi, the bureau chief, was imprisoned for 12 years in Israel.
Mouna, the Al Quds Press agency journalist arrested yesterday, was already arrested several times by the Israeli military in recent years and, according to the MADA, was questioned about his journalism and about his alleged political activities, which he denied.
Israel is ranked 87th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.