The Palestinian People's Party (PPP) has issued a statement strongly denouncing Israeli military invasions of an octet of Palestinian media outlets — which saw premises aggressively searched, journalists arrested searches and operations shut down — as "state-sponsored terrorism."
The invasions were carried out by Israeli soldiers and security officers October 18 at dawn in several parts of the occupied West Bank. The outlets were shut down by direct military order, and equipment confiscated. Affected agencies include Ramsat, Trans Media, Pal Media, Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds.
Moreover, Amer al-Ja'bari, Director of Trans Media, and his brother Ibrahim, were abducted. In a separate action that same day, soldiers also abducted 18 Palestinians from their homes across the West Bank.
Many local youngsters are reported to have hurled stones at the invading soldiers, who responded with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs, leading to several injuries.
In its statement, the PPP said the actions were but another round of Israeli escalation, and part of an ongoing effort to silence the media in occupied Palestine.
"What is happening is criminal — the Israeli violations and military oppression are carried out with the sole purpose of trying to bury the truth, and to hide the ongoing crimes. This is state-sponsored terrorism, and a direct violation of International Law, including the Freedom of the Press," the PPS stated.
The PPP also praised journalists and media outlets operating in occupied Palestine, who the said faced "escalating Israeli aggression and violations," but remained "determined to expose the criminal nature of the occupation."
Conspiracy of Silence
For their part, Israeli forces justified the action on the basis the agencies were "unlicensed," provided services to "terror elements," and "engaged in incitement." The agencies will remain closed for six months at a minimum.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the Israeli government's efforts to restrict journalist reporting, both within the country and the territories it occupies, is well-documented. Most recently, Tel Aviv announced in August it would ban Al Jazeera's operations in Israel, shut down its offices and revoke the press credentials of its Arabic and English journalists operating in the country, on the basis the network was "inciting" violence.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had in July suggested he would pursue legislation to shut down the over the broadcaster's coverage of the dispute over Israel's restrictions of access to the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
In September the previous year, Facebook blocked the accounts of at least seven editors from two Palestinian news outlets at the Netanyahu government's request, less than a month after signing an agreement with Israeli authorities on tackling "incitement" on social media. According to Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Facebook granted 95 percent of the requests it submitted to the company to remove content it disliked. There have also been numerous cases of Palestinian news agencies receiving Facebook bans without explanation, including Gaza 24.Tel Aviv refused to issue visas to staff from Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world's most renowned human rights NGOs, accusing the group of having an "extreme, hostile and anti-Israel agenda."
While the decision was deemed "ominous" by HRW, the organization's ability to investigate human rights abuses in the West Bank has been sharply reduced ever since 2010, with Israel refusing HRW staff access to the area without military accompaniment, and blocking access to certain sections outright.
Activists aiming to investigate living conditions for Palestinians in Israeli-occupied areas have also been arrested, detained and then deported by officials, and banned from ever returning.
In April, HRW issued a 47-page report — Unwilling or Unable: Israeli Restrictions on Travel to and from Gaza for Human Rights Workers — that alleged the Israel government blocked access to and from the Gaza Strip for human rights workers in order to prevent the documentation of abuses.
Such restriction are said to hamper the International Criminal Court's ongoing preliminary examination of the situation there, and preclude investigators from assessing whether national authorities are genuinely carrying out credible investigations into abuses and prosecuting offenders appropriately.