Officers fromIsrael’s Ministry of Communications’ Wireless Supervision Unit, together with Israeli soldiers, raided the Al Watan television station in Ramallah early Wednesday morning. The station is located within territory designed as “Area A” by the Oslo Accords and therefore out ofIsrael’s administrative and military jurisdiction.
Israeli troops also raided the Al-Quds Educational TV in Al-Bireh.
Both stations are registered with the International Telecommunication Union and their broadcasting frequencies are regulated by agreements between the PLO andIsrael.
In both cases Israeli authorities confiscated computers, transmitters and broadcasting equipment, as well as administrative and financial files. Four journalists were arrested during the raid, but later released.
In a statement published after the raid, Al Watan television station claimed that this was an act of piracy and part of a “systematic targeting of Palestinian media organizations and journalists” .
Haroun Abu Irreh, head of Al-Quds Educational TV, said that the raids were an attempt “to shut the mouths of media and reporters.”
Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary-General of the National Palestinian Initiative Party, also claimed the raid was an act of “Israeli piracy.” Barghouthi added that it violated the Oslo Accords, which prevent Israeli security forces from entering Area A.
The confiscation of equipment from Watan TV and Al-Quds Educational TV deprives Palestinians of their right to have frequencies for building modern wireless communication networks.
According to an Israeli military spokesperson, the raid was prompted by the station’s use of unauthorized frequencies, which endanger flight routes overBenGurionInternationalAirport. However the Palestinian Authority described the raid as the possible beginning of a “frequency war” over limited broadcasting space.
Suleiman Zuheiri, Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Telecommunication in Ramallah, claims that Israeli military accusations regarding the interruption of aircraft communications are false. Zuheiri states that the “airport’s range is very different from the range used by TV stations.” Zuheiri explains that “civil aviation waves, according to international parameters, start at 120 megahertz, while TV frequencies start at above 500 megahertz.”
In addition, Zuheiri said that the raid breaches agreements betweenIsraeland the Palestinian Authority which require such issues be resolved through consultation. According to the Oslo Agreements, a joint committee of technical experts representing both sides was to have been established to address any issue arising on the topic of communications, including future needs of the Palestinians.
Contradicting statements by the Israeli army, the Palestinian Ministry of Communications claimed it was never notified that the two stations caused interruptions. The Ministry was also not informed of Israeli plans to shut the stations down.
In light ofIsrael’s unilateral breach of these agreements the acting Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, said the raids on the Al Watan TV and Al Quds Educational TV stations are proof that the Mideast Quartet has failed.
Sources at the Palestinian Authority claim that the raids may be the beginning of a wide-scale campaign against other Palestinian stations, those of the PA.
* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center