fatah hamas clash 298.8.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Following a increasing number of attacks on Palestinian journalists and media organizations, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has called for an emergency conference to address the phenomenon.
The syndicate, which represents hundreds of journalists from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to instruct the PA security forces to take real measures to halt the attacks. It said that despite the sharp rise in the assaults, the PA security forces had failed to arrest any of the perpetrators.
"An increasing number of Palestinian journalists are concerned about their safety and afraid for their lives," said syndicate head Naim Toubassi. "In recent weeks there has been an increase in attacks on journalists and media outlets, and this is very worrying."
Earlier this week unidentified gunmen set fire to two vehicles belonging to the Palestinian Company for Media and Communications in Ramallah. Arsonists also torched the car of prominent journalist Maher Shalabi.
Offices belonging to the Palestinian news agency Wafa and Palestine TV have also been targeted over the past few days.
Moreover, several journalists have received repeated death threats, prompting some of them to stop writing under their real names and others to take measures to ensure their safety.
Last month, several Fatah officials accused the Al-Jazeera TV network of siding with Hamas in the power struggle with Fatah, and threatened to target its correspondents. The accusations followed an incident in which Fatah gunmen set fire to a number of vehicles belonging to Al-Jazeera in Ramallah to protest the station's failure to cover a Fatah rally.
The latest assaults are clearly linked to the violent power struggle between Fatah and Hamas. In Gaza City a few weeks ago, a Fatah-run radio station was forced to go off the air following death threats against its employees.
On Monday night, a senior Fatah official, Jamal Nazzal, threatened the independent news agency Maan, accusing it of being biased in favor of Hamas. Nazzal phoned the offices of the Bethlehem-based agency and told the editors that Fatah would "deal" with them as it has dealt with others in the past.
The threat against Maan drew sharp criticism from many senior Fatah leaders, who expressed concern at "increased incidents of intimidation" of the media. Fahmi Za'areer, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, dismissed allegations that his party was behind most of the attacks. "Fatah was among the fist Palestinian groups to defend the freedom of speech and pluralism," he said.
Another Fatah official, Tawfik Abu Khoussa, who previously served as deputy chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the Gaza Strip, condemned the recent spate of attacks as a "form of intellectual, moral and financial terrorism." He too said Fatah was determined to preserve the freedom of the media in PA-controlled areas.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists who met in Ramallah over the past two days decided to send an urgent letter to Abbas urging him to intervene to halt the attacks. In the letter, the journalists said they were planning to convene an emergency national conference to discuss the increased attacks on the local media. The journalists are hoping that representatives of all Palestinian security forces, political factions and media organizations will participate in the gathering.
"We're hoping to hold the conference on the freedom of the media as early as next Sunday," said a Palestinian newspaper editor. "We will invite President Mahmoud Abbas to attend the conference to sound an alarm about the threat to the freedom of expression. Journalists have become easy prey and we are fed up with the situation."