Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked by the raids that Israeli troops carried out on two Palestinian TV stations in the West Bank in the early hours of 29 February, seizing equipment and thereby forcing the stations to close.
“These arbitrary and illegal operations served yet again to intimidate Palestinian media and journalists, the victims of repeated attacks by the Israel Defence Forces,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the Israeli military to return the confiscated equipment and allow the two stations to resume broadcasting.
The raids were carried out by members of the IDF accompanied by intelligence officers on Al-Wattan TV in Ramallah and Al-Quds Educational TV in Al-Bireh (about 2 km outside Ramallah). Both stations are located in territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
During the raid on Al-Wattan TV, production director Abd Al-Rahman Thaher, reporter Hamza Salamiyeh, broadcasting manager Ahmed Zaki and designer Ibrahim Milhim were held for several hours. According to Al-Watan representative Ola Abu Gharbia, 21 computers, a transmitter and live broadcasting equipment were taken. The soldiers, who also took cassettes, administrative files and official documents, refused to give any explanation for the seizures.
During the raid on Al-Quds Educational TV at around 3 a.m., the Israeli troops seize broadcasting and communications equipment, station manager Haroun Abou Arra said. The station mainly broadcasts children’s programmes and is attached to Jerusalem University’s Institute of Contemporary Media.
The IDF said raids were carried out on two “pirate” TV stations because they were broadcasting without a licence on frequencies that endangered communications with civilian aircraft.
The French foreign ministry condemned the raids later the same day.
Reporters Without Borders has often denounced Israeli harassment of journalists. On 20 November, the Israeli communications ministry ordered the closure of All for Peace (Kol Hashalom), a radio station based in occupied East Jerusalem and broadcasting from Ramallah in the West Bank.
Claiming that that it lacked the necessary broadcast licences, the Israeli authorities accused it of “inciting hatred towards Israel.” It had been broadcasting programmes in Hebrew and Arabic for seven years, encouraging peace initiatives and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.