Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the detention of nine journalists by the security services in Gaza and the deletion of photos and other materials from their cameras and cellular phones. Al Mezan calls for the investigation of the incident, for appropriate procedures to be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future, and to enhance public freedom and respect of the law.
According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, at approximately 10:30 am on Monday, 8 October 2015, the police investigation apparatus in Gaza arrested nine journalists and detained them at Al Sheja’iya police station. Another three Fatah members were also arrested and held at the Internal Security headquarters in Ansar security compound, west Gaza City. They were detained while reporting on and participating in an event commemorating the 1973 War anniversary, which was on 6 October. The Fatah movement had organized the event in recognition of Egyptian soldiers killed in the war. Participants placed flowers in the cemetery of Ali Bin Merwan in the neighborhood of Al Sheja’iya.
A white jeep arrived at the aforementioned cemetery. Five men dressed in civilian clothes and holding weapons stepped out of the jeep. They attempted to detain nine journalists. The journalists refused to get into the jeep and only agreed to take their personal cars to Al Sheja’iya police station. The nine journalists were interrogated and after one hour they were referred to the Ministry of Interior headquarters near Al Maqousi towers in Gaza City. Then, the journalists had their reporting materials deleted from their cell phones and cameras. They were released at 1:40 pm the same day. Al Mezan identified the journalists as follows:
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights re-asserts that the freedom of the press is guaranteed under the Palestinian Basic Law and Press Law. Any restrictions on the press, such as repression orders, are only sanctioned by a court order. Moreover, the right to peaceful assembly is also guaranteed under the law and require notifying the police or the Governor. Thus, the persisting demand that demonstrations obtain a prior permit to organize a peaceful assembly is beyond this legal requirement.
Al Mezan condemns the detention of the nine journalists and the confiscation journalistic materials from them. Al Mezan asserts that the behavior of the police and internal security was contrary to the Palestinian law, and injures freedoms guaranteed by human rights standards, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Al Mezan, therefore, calls on the concerned authorities, including audit of the Ministry of Interior, to open a serious investigation into the complaint filed by Al Mezan on behalf of the journalists; to hold law enforcement officers who violated the law to account; and to take appropriate procedures to ensure the respect of public freedoms, particularly of the press and the right to peaceful assembly, in a way that ensures the full respect of fundamental freedoms.