A dispute has erupted between the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction and Hamas over elections for a new board of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS).
The PJS, which has more than 2500 members, is planning to hold its general conference and elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on May 23 and 24.
Last month, the PJS published the names of its members, drawing protests from many journalists, especially those living in the Gaza Strip who were surprised to see that their names were not included in the list.
Later, the PJS opened the door for journalists to present their candidacy for the elections.
The syndicate then announced that only one list, The List of Palestinian Press Martyrs, has been approved to run in the elections. The list is dominated by Fatah loyalists and activists, many of whom are not journalists, according to some Palestinian journalists.
A group of Palestinian journalists residing in the Gaza Strip filed a petition with a Hamas court asking that it prevent the PJS from holding the elections. The court is expected to issue a ruling on the matter on Sunday.
The journalists accused Fatah and the Palestinian Authority of “hijacking” the PJS. They claimed that Fatah and the PA have allowed many of their supporters, including security officers and government employees, to join the syndicate in violations of its regulations.
“The Palestinian Authority wants the syndicate to serve as a government agency, not as an independent union representing real journalists,” said a veteran journalist from the Gaza Strip. “In the past few years, we saw dozens of Fatah activists and security officers join the syndicate, although they have nothing to do with journalism.”
Last week, journalists held a demonstration in the Gaza Strip to protest what they described as attempts by the PA and Fatah to deprive them of their right to elect their own representatives.
The journalists also accused the PJS of banning them from joining the syndicate or receiving its press cards for political reasons.
Gaza journalists critical of PJS elections
Emad Zaqout, a prominent journalist from the Gaza Strip, described the planned elections as a “farce” and accused Fatah of planning to retain its control over the syndicate.
He and other journalists appealed to the International Federation of Journalists and other media institutions to intervene to guarantee their right to hold democratic elections for their syndicate.
Another group of Gaza-based journalists held a demonstration to protest attempts by Hamas and its supporters to prevent the elections for the syndicate. The journalists said the petition that was filed to a Hamas court by some of their colleagues was aimed at denying them the right to hold a democratic vote and choose their own representatives for the PJS.
The Ramallah-based chairman of the PJS, Nasser Abu Bakr, who is also a senior Fatah official, accused Hamas of seeking to prevent the syndicate from holding its general conference and elections.
Abu Bakr told the PA’s official news agency Wafa that Hamas is trying to control the syndicate and prevent the existence of a union body in the Gaza Strip that protects journalists and defends their rights.
Hamas, Abu Bakr charged, wants to control all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip by force, as it did when it staged a “military coup” in the costal enclave in 2007.