Palestinian freelancer Marwat Al-Azza was detained for “incitement” on social media
NBC News has parted company with Palestinian journalist Marwat Al-Azza following her arrest by Israeli authorities on Friday for allegedly inciting and disseminating materials encouraging terrorism, the network confirmed on Monday.
Al-Azza’s purported support for Hamas consisted of four Facebook posts published to her personal account in the aftermath of Hamas’ October 7 attack, police told Haaretz. When informed she was wanted for questioning, Al-Azza reportedly showed up at an East Jerusalem police station “ready for arrest,” without her cell phone and with vital phone numbers written on her skin.
A police representative described Al-Azza’s social media activity as “extremely grave offenses during a war, committed by someone who lives and works in a country that is under attack, yet chooses to incite and glorify the terrible acts committed against civilians.”
The Magistrate’s Court ruled on Friday that she was to be detained for at least five more days after the prosecutor warned she might tamper with evidence if released, citing her acknowledged deletion of other social media posts.
Al-Azza’s lawyer protested that she had deleted the posts before she understood they were evidence, pointing out that she had admitted to doing so and had owned up to making the original posts rather than trying to claim they were the work of a hacker.
In one of the Facebook posts, Al-Azza mocked a widely-shared video purporting to show the kidnapping of an elderly Israeli woman, describing the scene as “a black comedy, the old woman looks happy, a bit of action before she dies.” In another, she observed, “Sirens all the time, the Jews are hiding and the Arabs are out drinking coffee on their balconies.”
“I feel like I’m watching a movie where the director is Palestinian and the protagonists are from Gaza,” she wrote in a third post.
The 45-year-old is “a normal person and a journalist whose work is important to everyone,” the attorney argued, insisting her work fell under the heading of “freedom of expression.”
Al-Azza began working for NBC shortly before the war, according to Haaretz. The network has distanced itself from her, insisting in a statement sent to multiple news outlets that the arrest was unrelated to the network. NBC was “not aware of [the offending Facebook] posts before we engaged Ms. Azza four weeks ago,” nor will she be “contributing to our coverage going forward,” it said.
The number of Palestinians and even Israelis arrested for “incitement” has shot up since the war due to the removal of a requirement that such arrests be approved by the State Prosecutor’s Office. Interior Minister Moshe Arbel has proposed to strip Israeli citizenship from anyone convicted of supporting terror during wartime.