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PA forces detain head of Hebron radio station days after Israel shuts it down

Sept. 3, 2017 10:52 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2017 10:27 P.M.)
Manbar al-Hurriyya (Freedom Tribune) radio station
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian security forces reportedly detained the director of a Hebron-based Palestinian radio station on Sunday, days after Israeli forces raided its offices and ordered it to be shut down for the next six months.

Last Thursday, Israeli soldiers stormed al-Hurriya Media Company -- which runs the Manbar al-Hurriya radio station and al-Nawras TV -- and destroyed, damaged, and confiscated various equipment, head of the radio station Ayman Qawasmeh told Ma'an at the time.

An Israeli army spokesperson had said that the raid was part of the Israeli army’s “ongoing efforts against incitement” in the occupied West Bank. She added that the station “regularly broadcasts inciting contents,” and has “encouraged acts of terror.”

Three days later, Palestinian media sites reported that Palestinian security forces arrested Qawasmeh.

Al-Quds News reported the arrest came after Qawasmeh called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to resign in the wake of the radio station's closure.

Following the Israeli raid, Qawasmeh told Ma'an: “We were not surprised at the occupation’s barbaric policy and they will not be able to silence the voice of al-Hurriya.” He added that it was not the first time the radio station, which employs 56 people, had been shuttered by Israeli forces over claims of alleged incitement to violence.
Ayman Qawasmeh

Israeli authorities have led a crackdown on Palestinian media and freedom of expression in recent months -- imprisoning journalists, activists, poets, and novelists, as well as hundreds of average citizens over social media activity -- alleging that so-called incitement was responsible for stoking wave of political unrest that peaked in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israeli in the fall of 2015.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has meanwhile been the target of condemnation and growing unpopularity for a parallel campaign aimed at stifling dissent, and also for the PA's policy of security coordination with Israel, which has been described as a "revolving door policy" of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons for the same offenses.

Abbas claimed to freeze security coordination with Israel after Israeli forces imposed a bloody crackdown on a Palestinian civil disobedience campaign protesting new security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

However, reports have emerged since the Palestinian president promised to sever ties with Israel that PA forces were secretly continuing security coordination by carrying out a number of arrests. Israeli forces have meanwhile continued to violently raid PA-controlled areas of the occupied West Bank on a daily basis to detain Palestinians without interference from the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas also recently passed a new Cyber Crimes Law by presidential decree, which has been described by rights groups as “draconian” and “the worst law in the PA’s history,” for imposing jail time, hard labor, and fines for creating, publishing, and sharing information deemed dangerous by the PA. A number of journalists have already been detained under the new law.
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