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Hamas media crackdown draws criticism from Fatah, foreign media

BBC Monitoring

Reports from Gaza on 14 November said that the Hamas movement, which took control of the territory by force in June this year, was imposing stricter controls on the media, especially Palestinian journalists.

The Interior Ministry in Gaza announced on the 14th that journalists who did not hold official press cards issued by Hamas would not be allowed to work in Gaza, international news agencies reported.

The agencies added that news organizations had resisted signing up for the Hamas cards because it would entail submitting to restrictions, including a vague ban on stories that "cause harm to national unity" or did not uphold "national responsibilities".

The restrictions were first enacted by Fatah in 1995 when it was in power, and were used to crack down on Hamas at the time.

Targeting journalists

The rival Fatah movement has condemned Hamas for allegedly targeting journalists in Gaza.

"Fatah's media office in Nablus said that some journalists working in the Gaza Strip had been attacked by Hamas militias, who raided their homes and issued death threats against them," the independent, non-governmental Palestinian Ma'an News Agency website reported on 14 November.

Fatah added that the death threats had targeted journalists who had covered a rally on 12 November to mark the third anniversary of the death of Yasir Arafat.

Towards the end of the rally, the Associated Press reported, Hamas police opened fire on hundreds of stonethrowers. Eight civilians were killed and dozens wounded by gunfire.

Foreign media protest

The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association (FPA), representing foreign journalists in Israel and the Palestinian areas, condemned what it called the "harassment of Palestinian journalists in Gaza by members of Hamas's security forces".

"We view today's incident as a serious infringement of the freedom of the press, and we demand an immediate end to this continued obstruction and intimidation," said a statement on the FPA website (http://www.fpa.org.il).

The FPA also protested against recent moves to force all journalists in Gaza to apply for new press cards with conditions and rules attached to accreditation.

Saying that the conditions were "contrary to the freedom of the press", the FPA added: "The authorities in Gaza are urged to respect press freedom and to allow all journalists to pursue their work without intimidation or interference."

Source: BBC Monitoring research 15 Nov 07



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