Palestine: Crackdown on journalists and activists

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch documented five cases – two in the West Bank and three in Gaza – in which security forces arrested or questioned journalists, a political activist, and two rap musicians based on their peaceful criticism of the authorities. Four of those arrested, two in Gaza and two in the West Bank, say that security forces physically abused or tortured them. The authorities in Gaza denied the allegations, and in the West Bank the authorities said they could not investigate the allegations in the absence of a formal complaint. These crackdowns follow a pattern of violations of the right to free speech and due process that Human Rights Watch has documented in the past five years, most recently in May 2015. In the West Bank, some progress has been made in protecting the rights of those arrested.

In Gaza, Hamas authorities detained and intimidated an activist who criticized the government for failing to protect a man with a mental disability; a journalist who posted a photograph of a woman looking for food in a garbage bin; and a journalist who alleged medical malpractice at a public hospital after a newborn baby died. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA) arrested and charged activists and musicians who ridiculed Palestinian security forces for cooperating with Israel and accused the government of corruption. The offending statements were allegedly made in Facebook postings, graffiti, and rap songs.

In the abuse cases, activists and journalists said that security officers beat or kicked them, deprived them of sleep and proper food, hosed them with cold and then hot water, and made them maintain uncomfortable positions for long hours. In Gaza, two detainees said security officials made them sign commitments not to criticize the authorities without proper evidence. In the West Bank, both men arrested faced criminal charges, including defamation and insulting a public official.

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