The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) condemned, in a statement, the large-scale arrests and attacks that have been carried out by security forces in the Gaza Strip, over the last three days, against journalists and workers in human rights organizations — citizens who took part in peaceful marches to express their opinion on the situation in the region, a right guaranteed by international law and Palestinian Basic Law.

According to the monitoring and documentation unit at MADA center, so far, these attacks have affected at least 24 journalists.

These attacks include the abduction of 19 journalists and media workers, over the past three days, most of who were physically assaulted during their arrest — this in addition to the assault of the editing manager of the Bawabit Al-Hadaf news agency, Sami Yousef Issa, and Sawt Alsha’b radio station reporter Mahmoud Al-Louh, as well as the attack on journalists Hassib al-Wazir, Mohammad al-Jaysh, Joma’aa Dalool. Other violations were also reported, such as the prevention of coverage, prosecutions and seizure of equipment, especially photographic equipment and mobile phones for journalists.

Those jailed included the following journalists: Nour al-Najjar, Osama al-Kahlout, Mohammed Abdul Salam al-Ashqar, Matar al-Zaq, Mustafa al-Dahdouh, Moin Mohsen, Fahad al-Khalidi, Moin Farajullah, Raafat al-Qudra, Majid Diab Qudeih, Ehab Fasfoos, Ahmad nasir Sahmood, Amer Ba’aloucheh, Bashar Taleb, Asim Shehadeh, Ahmed Al Shanabari, Hani Al-Agha, and media students Amjad Halas and Osama Abu Sakran.

While a number of these journalists were released, following family and personal interventions, at least five of them are still in detention: the director-general of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation Raafat al-Qudra, the journalists Osama al-Kahlout, Amer Baalusha, and the media students Amjad Hailes and Osama Abu Sukran.

This repression was characterized by its severity and comprehensiveness, as it was not limited to demonstrators who took part in peaceful marches, but extended to journalists and human rights workers, aiming to block any media coverage or publication of what was happening in the Gaza Strip.

The attack on the journalist, Ashraf Sharif al-Kahlout, who is still in detention, summarizes the repression of media freedoms in Gaza since Thursday, whereas his family said, on Sunday, that “his release is delayed because he is unable to walk on his feet because of the physical attack on him.”

Al-Kahlout’s wife told MADA that masked gunmen from Hamas stormed their house on Friday (15/3/19) while Osama was broadcasting a live video, on his Facebook page, about peaceful popular protests against the high cost of living and poor economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, whereupon they beat him severely with sticks, pushed his mother to the ground, and then destroyed the contents of his office (computer and other equipment). They also beat the director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Jamil Sarhan, and the lawyer of the Commission, Bakir Turkmani, both of whom were in Osama’s house, in the meantime. They then took the journalist Al-Kahlout to the Deir al-Balah police station, then to the hospital. After he was hospitalized for about two hours, they returned him to Deir al-Balah police center, where he is still detained.

Citing another example, PNN further reports that the editor of the news agency “Al-Hadaf”, Sami Yusuf Ibrahim Issa, upon his arrival on Thursday, to the Transe area in Jabalia, was subjected to harassment by about five members in civilian clothes who tried to prevent him from filming. When police began dispersing protesters with sticks and firing into the air, he moved to a nearby alley to avoid any harm. But, after a while, about 10 masked men approached him without introducing themselves or to which faction or party they belonged, and beat him with their fists and feet, over his body. They asked him to remove the pictures and give them his phone. When he refused, they continued to assault him and took the phone by force.

MADA holds the responsibility for the attacks over the ruling authorities in the Gaza Strip, demanding the release of all journalists and citizens abducted during these events, and to respect their right to freedom of expression. MADA also stresses the need to establish an independent commission of inquiry into these attacks, publish the results of their findings, and see to the accountability of all those involved in the attacks.

(edited for the IMEMC by c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g)

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