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Reporters in Gaza will need Hamas-approved 'sponsors'
By OREN KESSLER
09/26/2011
Move requires foreign journalists to be accompanied by Hamas-approved "fixers"; Swedish journalist: "This is like Soviet Union."
 
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip are requiring foreign journalists to take on regimeapproved “sponsors” while in the coastal area, the latest sign the Islamist group is determined to keep a tight lid on the flow of information from the territory.

Terje Carlsson, a freelance Swedish journalist, left Israel on Sunday for Gaza, first crossing the Palestinian Authority checkpoint at the border of the Strip and a few hundred meters on, the checkpoint run by Hamas.

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“They usually check your luggage for liquor, write down your passport number and ask where you’re staying,” he told The Jerusalem Post by phone from Gaza City.

Carlsson has reported from Gaza at least six times over the last two-and-a-half years and never experienced problems getting in or out. But this time, he said, he was denied entry after officials told him his “fixer” in the Strip had not received prior government approval. (A fixer is a local person who sets up interviews with officials and residents, helps reporters take basic security measures and often serves as translator.) After several hours of wrangling, Carlsson was finally let into Gaza, but instructed to find a Hamas-approved “sponsor” the next morning.

The reporter said the demand puts the fixer in a very precarious position.

“I’ve done stories very critical about Hamas – people have told me about things like drug-smuggling corruption. The local fixers give you a lot of information about this. They’ll put you in touch with a lot of people who talk about how bad this government is.

“For me this is reminiscent of the Soviet Union; the authorities are trying to let the fixers know that the only way to make money is not to be too difficult,” he continued.

“This is a way to tighten the flow of information.”

The Post could not independently confirm Carlsson’s claims.

Also Monday, Israeli police arrested a Hamas lawmaker who had been sheltered for more than a year in the International Red Cross offices in east Jerusalem, Reuters reported, quoting a police spokesman.

Ahmad Attoun had taken shelter in the ICRC building along with another Hamas legislator and a former Hamas government minister after Israeli authorities revoked their Jerusalem residency permits.

The police spokesman and a security guard at the ICRC building said paramilitary police disguised as Palestinians had grabbed Attoun at the entrance to the offices and arrested him. He was taken into custody a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas mentioned the men’s case in a speech on his return to the West Bank from the United Nations, where he applied for recognition of full Palestinian statehood.

The other two Hamas men remained inside the ICRC building.

In a statement issued in June 2010, after Israel ordered them to leave Jerusalem, the three Hamas operatives wrote: “We, as sons of Jerusalem have never left it before... we emphasize that we will remain here and never leave it.”

The ICRC has said it told Israeli authorities that international humanitarian law prohibited the forcible transfer of Palestinian residents from their homes, for whatever reason.

The organization also said it had informed the three Hamas men that ICRC premises had no special status and the ICRC could not prevent police entering the building to arrest them.
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