Quite by accident, I saw this satellite channel for the first time at the home of a family in Ramallah who were surfing the airwaves for news, on the night that we were all waiting to learn if it was true that an agreementhad been reached by Palestinian prisoners to end their collective hunger strike [and also the individual hunger strike actions that had been going on, in two cases, for over 77 days].
“What’s that?”, I asked, surprised by what I saw on the TV. “We don’t know”. the Ramallah family I was visiting answered, “we just found it now”.
It had video footage of Palestinian prisoners walking around in the cell yards of Israeli prisons, and it had marquis running headlines with the latest updates — “head of Palestinian prisoners club confirms agreement has been reached”, for example.
Only tonight, I learned what it is: “The Palestine Prisoner Channel, which began broadcasting a month ago, features news coverage including reports and interviews with Palestinian prisoners on their status and condition in Israeli jails”.
How does it do that? This is still completely unclear.
The identity of this station became clear in an announcement by the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ], published here, which criticizes a recent Israeli Army raid on the station, the confiscation of its equipment, and the detention of the station’s general director, Bahaa Khairi Moussa, at his home in Jenin last Thursday [May 17].
The CPJ announcement added that despite the raid, confiscation, and arrest of the station director, the Palestine Prisoner Channel is still on the air.
The CPJ statement, published from New York, said:
- “Israeli authorities should release the director of a new Palestinian satellite broadcaster who has been detained since Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today … Authorities have not disclosed Moussa’s whereabouts or the charges against him, local and regional press freedom groups reported … The news broadcaster’s executive director, Saher al-Qassim, said in a statement that his colleagues believed Moussa’s arrest stemmed from the station’s specialized coverage of Palestinian prisoners. The arrest occurred days after about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners waged a month-long hunger strike for more rights in the Israeli detention system, news reports said. The Israel Defense Forces has not released a statement about the director’s arrest or the confiscation of equipment. Al-Qassim said the Palestine Prisoner Channel has continued to broadcast by using backup equipment. ‘Israeli authorities should consider the message they are sending by imprisoning the head of a station that covers news about prisoners’, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. ‘Authorities should not be holding Bahaa Khairi Moussa, and certainly not without explanation. He should be released immediately, and the station’s equipment should be returned’. Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, said Moussa’s arrest was ‘illegal and arbitrary’, and said the channel had legal authorization to broadcast from the Palestinian Authority, The Jerusalem Post reported…”.
The news of the raid, confiscation, and detention was actually reported last week by the Jerusalem Post, on the day of the raid, here.
The JPost report says:
- “IDF troops arrested the 38-year-old director-general of the Palestinian Prisoner Channel from his home in the West Bank village of Marka on Thursday. ‘The Israeli occupying forces raided the home of the director-general of the Palestinian Prisoner Channel, Mr. Baha Khairy Attalah Musa, who lives in the village of Marka located south of Jenin’, a comment on the station’s Facebook page announced shortly after 11:30 a.m. During the raid of his home, IDF soldiers also confiscated computers and technical equipment used to broadcast the channel’s programming, according to the statement. ‘The Prisoner Channel staff condemns this aggressive action by the brutal occupation, which will affect the station’s programming and its mission’, the statement said, noting that the Prisoner Channel is an independent organization that is not affiliated with any political group Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe called the arrest illegal and arbitrary. The channel ‘was operating legally in the territory under the [Palestinian] Authority’, he said … The station’s legal adviser has ‘initiated legal proceedings against this unjustified action, which is contrary to law’, a spokesperson for the Prisoner Channel told Al-Quds”…
According to the JPost story:
- “A scan of the station’s Facebook page reveals that while the majority of the comments posted relate to the issue of Palestinian prisoners, some comments and posted photographs call for the Palestinian ‘right of return’ … The Facebook page itself was created on February 19, two days before former Palestinian prisoner, Khader Adnan, who is widely accredited with helping inspire the recent hunger strike movement among Palestinian prisoners, was released, and three days after Adnan’s lawyers petitioned the High Court of Justice to free him”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists notes, in its announcement today from New York, that:
- “In late February, CPJ documented a raid by Israeli soldiers on two Palestinian TV stations, Wattan TV and Al-Quds Educational Television, in which equipment from both stations was confiscated. CPJ wrote a letter to Israeli Minister of Communications Moshe Kachlon on May 8, calling on the ministry to return the seized equipment of independent broadcaster Wattan TV. CPJ has yet to receive a response”.