Gaza: Journalists protest censorship

Journalists in the Gaza Strip say that they are victims of a terror campaign.

Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip complained on Tuesday that they were being subjected to a campaign of intimidation and terror by various armed groups and urged the Palestinian Authority to punish those responsible. Several Palestinian journalists and editors have been killed or beaten over the past few years by unidentified gunmen, especially in the Gaza Strip. Until today, none of the assailants have been caught. At a demonstration outside the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City, dozens of journalists said that they were suffering from growing attempts to restrict their work. "We condemn all methods of terror and threats practiced by some irresponsible parties in Palestinian society against Palestinian newsmen," said one of the journalists. "We are facing attacks from internal and external forces." The journalists urged the PA to guarantee the freedom of expression in its territories and take legal action against anyone who threatens or attacks them. They also denounced the recent kidnapping of two Fox News journalists in Gaza City and said those who carried out the abduction acted against the interests of the Palestinians. Ibrahim Barakat, a Fatah activist who joined the protest, described the kidnapping of the journalists as an "immoral act that distorts the image of the Palestinian people's struggle." He urged the PA to reveal the identity of the kidnappers and to bring them to court without delay. Some of the journalists also attacked Israel for wounding some of their colleagues during IDF incursions into the Gaza Strip. In a separate development, a row has erupted between journalists in the Gaza Strip over a meeting some them held earlier this week with PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a body dominated by Fatah supporters, accused Haniyeh's office of "discrimination" in deciding who would attend the meeting. It claimed that only Hamas-affiliated journalists were invited to the meeting. "Haniyeh's office ignored journalists working in important media outlets such as Palestine TV and the Wafa News Agency," the syndicate said. "This is a very serious development that will have repercussions on many levels." According to the syndicate, Haniyeh's decision to keep many to boycott many of its members coincides with increased attempts to terrorize Palestinian journalists and prevent them from carrying out their job. In response, the 13 journalists who were invited to interview Haniyeh launched a scathing attack on the syndicate, accusing it of stupidity and impotence. They said the attack on Haniyeh's office was an indication that the syndicate was acting out of "factional considerations." They said the syndicate had lost its right to represent all journalists because of the behaviour of its heads. Jamal Nazzal, a spokesman for Fatah in the West Bank, accused the Hamas-controlled government of harassing local journalists and media outlets. He sad the government was practicing "information starvation" by boycotting major news organizations and journalists, including Palestine TV and radio. "They prefer to deal with foreign journalists," he said. "They are trying to undermine and discredit the official media." Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas revealed that the movement will launch its own satellite TV station next month. Last year Hamas's local TV station went on the air for the first time, but its programs were viewed only in parts of the Gaza Strip. The sources said that the Hamas TV would use the services of the Egyptian satellite company Nilesat, which was established in 1996 and which operates hundreds of satellites in the Arab world.