Israeli troops have raided two Palestinian television stations in the West Bank, seizing transmitters and other equipment. The Palestinian PM denounced the operation, calling it “an oppressive and monstrous” move which violates “all international laws.”
Thirty Israeli soldiers took part in Wednesday’s pre-dawn raid which targeted the privately-owned al-Watan TV outlet. The Israeli military accused the broadcaster of interfering with legal broadcasters and aircraft communications, AP reports.
The operation also targeted Jerusalem Educational TV, which is owned by the Palestinian Al Quds University. No reason was given for the second raid.
Both stations are based in Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority.
Visiting al-Watan later in the day, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the operation was nothing short of “an attack against what is left of the Palestinian Authority's status in the West Bank."
His comments apparently refer to Israel’s tightening grip over the territories’ overall security.
Fayyad further called on international Mideast mediators to make Israel stop initiating such raids.
A Palestinian NGO director and legislator Mustafa Barghouti believes the raid was connected with the station’s regular reports on Palestinian demonstrations against Israeli actions in the West Bank.
"This is an act of repression of the freedom of the media in Palestine, and of repression of the popular resistance that we believe in," Barghouti said.
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society which Barghouti heads is one of three NGOs that jointly owns al-Watan.
It’s not the first time the Israeli authorities have cracked down on freedom of expression in the West Bank.
Last November, Israel shut down the dovish "All For Peace" radio station for being what one conservative lawmaker described as "a radical leftist station” which was “an instrument of incitement.
Israeli journalists have also fallen victim to increasingly harsh libel laws which critics say have strangled investigative reporting in the country.