Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) condemns the assault by unidentified armed men on a media crew who were covering the removal of rubble of a destroyed home in the area of Al Sha’af in the Al Tuffah neighborhood in East Gaza City. One of the journalists was subject to assault and the memory cards of his camera were confiscated before he was released. Al Mezan calls on the public prosecution to investigate the incident and on law enforcement to take necessary procedures to prevent assaults against civilians by armed groups. Al Mezan asserts that the concerned authorities must act quickly on any violations of the law.
According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, at approximately 10:30 am on Monday, 13 September 2015, unidentified armed men assaulted a media crew of journalists who were covering the removal of the rubble of a destroyed home in Al Sha’af. The armed men assaulted the journalists before detaining them on a military site in Al Tuffah. They were released shortly afterwards.
In his affidavit to Al Mezan, Fadel Mahmoud Al Hamami, 22, who works at Sadeel Media for Broadcasting and Media Production, stated that at approximately 10:00 am on Monday, 13 September 2015, he went along with his colleague Mohammed Abu Hamam, the director of the company; Yaser Murtaja, the director of Aien Media Company; and Rushdi Al Sarraj, cameraman at Aien Media Company, to Al Sha’af to cover the removal of rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli forces during the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip in 2014. A prior coordination with the owners of these houses had been made.
When the crew arrived at the site, the cameramen started shooting. They had a flying camera. After a short time, a man dressed in civilian clothes came and asked his colleague Mohammed Abu Hamam, “who are you and what are you doing here?” Abu Hamam said, “Tell me who you are, first”. The man replied “I’ll tell you” and then left. Ten minutes later, two jeeps arrived. Eight armed men dressed in military clothes and one man in civilian clothes got out of the jeeps. They did not talk to the crew. They directly dragged Abu Hamam away to one of the jeeps and took the cameras from him. Abu Hmam refused to give them the camera and tried to get it back but they started to beat him using their hands and weapons. They then took the entire crew to a military site. They were held in a room on the site. There was a man in civilian clothes there who asked them their names and what their activities were on the site. Half an hour later, the cameras were returned to the crew but without the memory cards.
Al Mezan strongly condemns the assault on the journalists and asserts that freedom of the press is guaranteed under Palestinian basic law. Freedom of the press is protected according to the Palestinian Authority, as emphasized by the recent accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Al Mezan asserts that any intervention from any group that has no relationship to law enforcement is considered a serious violation of the law. Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the public prosecution to investigate the incident. Al Mezan calls on the concerned authorities to take effective procedures to prevent such violations. Law enforcement officers must introduce credentials when they are on duty and detain or interrogate people.