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(photo credit: AP [file])
In an attempt to prevent Hamas from taking control over the media, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday decided to place the PA's radio and television stations under his jurisdiction, PA officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post.
The decision, which comes days before the new Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council is sworn in, drew sharp criticism from Hamas leaders, who called it "illegal." The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, a body that consists of the official Voice of Palestine Radio and TV, has always functioned as a department inside the PA Information Ministry. The corporation was established soon after the return of the PLO to the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the signing of the Oslo Accords.
According to the officials, the decision came in the form of a "presidential decree." The decree means that Abbas and his office, not the Information Ministry, will now be directly in charge of the electronic media. The decision also affects the PLO's official news agency, Wafa, which will now report directly to Abbas's office.
"Hamas is about to form a new cabinet and we don't want to give them control over the radio and television stations," a top PA official explained. "This means that a Hamas information minister would have no power over the media."
Palestinian journalists and editors who met lately with Abbas warned that they would not agree to serve under a Hamas administration. PA security officials expressed a similar position immediately after the results of the election were announced.
Abbas's move is the latest in a series of similar decisions taken since Hamas won the January 25 parliamentary election. In the past two weeks, Abbas issued several decisions to appoint or promote officials in various ministries and PA institutions.
At least five Health Ministry officials were promoted to senior positions last week, triggering protests from Hamas and other groups. The officials are all members of the ruling Fatah party.
The majority of the PA's top officials are Fatah members who fear that they will lose their jobs when, and if, Hamas takes over. Hamas representatives said last week that they were planning to cut the number of civil servants, pointing out that many people were on the payroll but not working. Hamas also said that it would cut the number of senior officials in PA ministries, especially in cases where more than 10 directors-general were serving.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri strongly criticized as "illegal" the latest decisions, saying Abbas had no right to make such changes before the formation of the new cabinet. He said Abbas was exploiting the transitional period to make last-minute changes and to create new facts on the ground.