On 24 March, the General Investigation Unit of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip summoned Palestinian reporter Ayman Ghazi al-‘Aloul following his television coverage of Hamas activities in Gaza. At the end of Ayman’s report he stated: “had the glorious Hamas leaders been alive today they would not have approved of the current policies”. The investigations into Ayman included an interrogation regarding both his Facebook activities and the content of the television report itself.
Ayman Ghazi al-‘Aloul – Gaza
On 24 March, at approximately 3:00 pm, Ayman, 43, received a phone call from an officer in the General Investigation Unit. The officer summoned Ayman to the Unit’s office in the police headquarters, located west of Gaza city, and told him that it was for an important matter. Curious to know the reason behind the urgent summoning, Ayman headed to the headquarters as directed. As soon as he arrived, an officer confiscated Ayman’s ID card and then led him into a room where another officer was waiting. Ayman introduced himself and inquired as to why he had been summoned. The officer ordered him to sign a written testimony that stated his commitment to the Islamic norms and traditions. He also ordered him to go to the General Investigation Unit office located in the Gaza City Governorate’s headquarters. Ayman signed the testimony and left.
The next day at approximately 9:00 am, Ayman left for his interview in the General Investigation Unit’s office in Gaza city. He had to wait for approximately one hour before he was taken to meet with the Head of the General Investigation Unit for Gaza City Governorate. During the interview he was questioned about his television report, which had covered the Hamas festival that took place on 23 March 2014. In the report, Ayman had openly criticised Hamas policies and spoke of how previous Hamas leaders would not approve of them.
Following the questioning, Ayman waited for approximately one hour in one of the rooms before being put into the back of a police car and taken to another General Investigation office to meet with the Head of the General Investigation Unit for the entirety of the Gaza Strip. Ayman was frustrated by the way he was transferred into the police car as he felt that he was treated like a criminal. Upon his arrival at the Headquarters, his cell phone was confiscated along with the rest of his personal belongings. Instead of meeting with the Head of the General Investigation Unit as he expected, Ayman was immediately escorted to a 2x2 m2 cell that lacked fresh air and smelt bad. He was left in the cell for approximately six hours. Afterwards, Ayman was taken into another room where an officer ordered him to sign another testimony stating his commitment to Islamic norms and traditions. Ayman signed the paper and was then released. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9460/2014)
According to Al-Haq’s field researcher, the Hamas policy of summoning activists and journalists has declined notably in the past six months. However, Ayman’s case illustrates that such procedures are still carried out and the right to freedom of expression continues to be violated in the Gaza Strip. Usually in these cases, an individual receives a written summons or a phone call summoning him/her for interrogation either by the General Investigation Unit or the Internal Security Forces.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is considered a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media. In addition, freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of Palestinian Basic Law. Furthermore, Article 32 of Palestinian Basic Law states that violation of freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of the press, is a criminal act punishable by law. As such, Al-Haq calls upon the Hamas government to respect the right to freedom of expression of the Palestinian people residing in the Gaza Strip.