The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the recent raid on a Nablus TV channel, which included the beating of three journalists working for the channel and the confiscation of filmed material by officers from the Palestinian Customs Department, who also closed the channel.PCHR notes that this is a flagrant attack on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of the press, which are guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and by relevant international human rights instruments.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and according to testimonies given by eyewitnesses, at approximately 11:30 on Tuesday, 03 August 2010, Fursan Bani Jaber, Head of the Custom Department in Nablus, arrived with a military officer from the Customs Department and another official from the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology at the offices of Nablus TV and demanded the staff to close the office and stop the broadcast.

Staff members of the TV channel immediately stopped the broadcast and Mahmoud Barham, the Director of Nablus TV, requested officials of the Customs Department to present to him the official document ordering the closure of the channel, but he was told that they did not have that document with them.

Mr. Barham debated with the customs officials, who then attacked Mr. Barham and his colleagues, including Dujana Abdul Latif Abu ‘Eisha, 26, Ayman Bassam Ibrahim ‘Eleiwi, 22, and Alaa’ Raja Abdul Rahman al-Shanti, 22.
Alaa’ al-Shanti told a PCHR fieldworker the following:

‘… We took two cameras to film what was going on. I had one of the two cameras. As we began filming, they attacked Dujana and Ayman. They beat them and confiscated their camera. I continued filming, but one of the customs officers saw me and placed a small bag on the lens to force me to stop filming. He yelled at me and ordered me to give him the camera. I refused to give him the camera and he pushed me on my right shoulder. He held me in the director’s room and closed the door. An additional force from the Customs Department was called to the office. They confiscated the camera of Dujana and Ayman. They returned it approximately one hour later after they had deleted the filmed material.’

In the wake of this attack, Dr. Mashhour Abu Daqqa, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, apologized through ‘Hadith al-Watan’ show on Ma’an Radio to local channels and to their staffs for the acts of the officers of the Customs Department and the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology. He also promised to form an investigative committee to look into these attacks, to make the results public and to hold perpetrators accountable. Dr. Abu Daqqa said: ‘The intervention of the Customs Department was improper.

The Department does not have the power to close local TV channels or to organize official visits to such stations. It was improper to engage the Customs Department in such acts and it must not have accepted to play this role even if requested to do so.’ Dr. Abu Daqqa explained that only the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Palestinian police have power to make such interventions.

PCHR strongly condemns this attack on Nablus TV Channel by the Customs Department and:

1. Expresses concern over the recurrence of such attacks on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of the press. PCHR stresses the importance of providing protection to journalists and to the media and to take necessary measures to enable them to conduct their duties freely.

2. Reiterates that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and by international human rights instruments.

3. Calls upon Palestinian security services to respect international human rights standards, the Palestinian Basic Law and other relevant laws.