On 29 December 2020, a large number of Israeli occupation forces (IOF), consisting of about 20 soldiers, stormed Yousef Fawadleh’s home at approximately 3:30 in the morning as family members were sleeping. IOF began attempting to break down the house door, before completely removing it with a specialized tool. The soldiers began verifying the identities of the family members, and after identifying Yousef, they took him to a separate room and demanded that he unlock his phone, which he refused. Yousef was subsequently detained, without being allowed to change his clothes, and taken on foot for about half an hour to the outskirts of the town where military jeeps awaited.
During his transfer to Ofer prison, Yousef was assaulted with a weapon to his knee, and was then subjected to a thorough search and medical examination. Afterwards, Yousef was transferred to Al-Mascobiyeh Interrogation Center, where he remained for five days. As a result of the conditions of his interrogation and assault, exacerbated by past health problems with the nerves of the stomach affecting his heat, Yousef felt extreme chest pains and was taken to a doctor who said that he did not suffer from anything, and did not provide him with any medicine to relieve the pain.
After five days at Al-Mascobiyeh, Yousef was transferred to Ashkelon Interrogation Center. During the transfer, Yousef was again insulted and assaulted by a soldier’s weapon on his knee, despite knowing that his knee was already weak as a result of a previous accident injuring his ACL.
Later, approximately 15 days after Yousef was arrested and during his interrogation, IOF stormed his family’s home and conducted a thorough search, withdrawing half an hour later without taking anything.
On 31 December 2020, Yousef was brought before Ofer military court, during which his detention was confirmed and extended for eight days to continue interrogation. In addition, Israeli occupation authorities issued an order banning him from meeting with a lawyer for a week after his detention. The renewal of the ban continued for 15 days, with the issuance of six separate prohibition orders, during which Yousef was prevented from meeting with his lawyer to receive necessary legal advice. The military court extended Yousef’s detention several times, bringing the total time he spent in interrogation to approximately 50 days.
On 16 February 2021, the Israeli military prosecutor filed an indictment against Yousef, which included a list of charges, some of them dating back to 2005 when the detainee was a child, relating to hanging flags and writing slogans. Other charges targeted his student and union work during his time as a university student 13 years ago, in addition to an allegation that he continues to be affiliated with an “illegal” organization banned by Israeli military orders.
Yousef is currently under trial before Ofer Israeli military court as he remains imprisoned in Ofer prison.
Israeli Military Courts Prosecute Journalists for their Civilian Activities
Israeli occupation authorities continue to brazenly violate international humanitarian law in utilizing the military court system to conduct political trials, falling far beyond their mandate in considering only the most serious security offenses. Nevertheless, Israeli occupation authorities systematically try activists, human rights defenders, and journalists via the Israeli military judicial system, which is distinctly devoid of fair trial standards. The ongoing case of journalist Yousef Fawadleh highlights the way in which Israeli occupation authorities work to prosecute journalists based on alleged affiliation to organizations prohibited by Israeli military orders, in violation of their right to political affiliation, association, and freedom of opinion and expression. The Israeli occupation considers civilian activities that they allege journalists engage in—such as joining associations, conducting field work or engaging in journalistic work through social media—as “dangerous” acts prosecutable under allegations that they harm the security of the region, amount to incitement etc. The criminalization of professional journalistic work via unfair trials before Israeli military courts lead tens and dozens of Palestinian journalists to be imprisoned for months and years.
Prosecuting journalists for their political or union activities not only amount to attempts to silence Palestinian journalists, but also constitute a flagrant violation of their right to practice journalism and express themselves by the means of their choice in a clear obstruction to the work of journalists in conveying truth to the public.
Targeting and Persecuting Palestinian Journalists
Since the beginnings of the occupation, the Israeli occupation regime has targeted journalists working in the occupied territory in attempts to prohibit them from communicating the reality of the crimes of the occupation against journalists. The persecution of journalists continues to increase following popular uprisings, wherein journalists are subjected to various forms of violations, including physical injuries, extrajudicial killings, and arrest.
As of July 2021, IOF are currently detaining 14 Palestinian journalists, including one female Palestinian journalist, and four are under administrative detention, held indefinitely under “secret information” without charge or trial.
The Israeli occupation and apartheid regime target Palestinian human rights defenders and journalists due to their documentation of human rights violations committed by the occupation regime against the Palestinian people, in violation of international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
The targeting and prosecution of journalists aims to suppress and deprive fundamental freedoms of opinion and expression guaranteed by international conventions and agreements, as well as the right to journalistic practice, wherein Israeli occupation authorities deliberately muzzle journalists to prevent them from covering and documenting the crimes committed through their arrest and imprisonment.