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Prisoners' groups denounce IPS decision to ban Ma'an TV from Israeli prisons

July 30, 2016 6:20 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 22, 2016 6:54 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian prisoners’ groups denounced on Saturday a decision by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to ban Ma’an TV from playing inside Israeli prisons, saying the move was made to disconnect Palestinian prisoners from the outside world and strip them of their rights.

"This decision seeks to separate prisoners from their surroundings and to keep them unaware of activism and media programs made to support their struggle," Osama al-Wahidi, a spokesperson for the Gaza Strip-based rights group the Hossam Association for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners, said in a statement.

The head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, also slammed the decision as “part of a comprehensive and aggressive attack” on prisoners and their rights and dignity.

Both statements noted that a number of programs on Ma’an TV are directed at Palestinian prisoners, depicting their daily suffering in Israeli custody.

Al-Wahidi said that the coverage offered incarcerated Palestinians a "path to finding and exposing the crimes that the (Israeli) occupation commits against Palestinian prisoners."

Qaraqe said such programs as “Prisoners of Freedom,” “At the Home of a Prisoner,” and the weekly show “Giants of Patience,” which is a joint program between Ma’an and Palestine TV, helped prisoners maintain contact with their families and “made Israel’s abusive violations against prisoners visible to the international community.”

Ma’an has also aired educational shows about prisoners and their intellectual and creative works. In Qaraqe’s view, Israeli authorities deemed these shows and programs as incitement, and so they “abusively” decided to ban the channel inside Israeli jails.

In response to a request for comment, an IPS spokesperson told Ma'an that IPS was "committed to maintaining the dignity and well-being of all prisoners under its custody as well as the safety of Israeli citizens."

"Therefore, due to inciting contents and suspicions regarding attempts to coordinate protest measures through broadcastings, the Israel Prison Service has decided it had no choice but to stop broadcasting the channel in all cell blocks in which national security prisoners are being held."

According to Qaraqe, the ban wasn’t the first time the Israeli government determined which satellite channels were allowed in Israeli prisons.

About a year ago, IPS banned Palestine TV for the same reasons, according to Qaraqe.

He urged international and Arab unions of journalists to focus on the “tyrannical Israeli violations and procedures” against Palestinian prisoners and media outlets.

“What happened with Ma’an TV invalidates all claims that Israel is a democratic state,” Qaraqe said.

Editor-in-Chief of Ma’an News Agency Dr. Nasser Lahham said on Friday after news of the ban emerged that Ma’an TV, one of the most popular media channels in Palestine, “never considered pleasing Israel or any other side.”

“We have always been this way and we will continue to be this way,” Lahham added.

The IPS decision came amid an ongoing mass hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody in protest of administrative detention -- an Israeli policy of detention without charge or trial almost exclusively used against Palestinians.

According to Palestinians, Israel often detains family members of Palestinian political leaders in an extension of several policies that rights groups have deemed “collective punishment” aimed at disrupting family life for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The decision by IPS officials has followed a long line of incidents in which Israeli authorities have accused scores of Palestinian journalists and activists of incitement against the Israeli state since a wave of violence erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October, including detaining dozens of Palestinians for reportedly inciting against the Israeli state in their Facebook posts.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of May, including 715 being held in administrative detention.

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