Gunmen destroy Bethlehem TV studio, suspending broadcasts

Unidentified gunmen destroyed most of the studio's equipment, furniture; none wounded.

looking at tv 88 (photo credit: )
looking at tv 88
(photo credit: )
Unidentified gunmen on Thursday went on a rampage inside the studios of the private Shepherds' TV in Bethlehem, destroying most of the equipment and furniture. No one was hurt in the attack. Workers at the station said the attack, which was carried out by several gunmen, took place late at night. They also said the attackers did not give any reason for the raid. "They threatened one of the workers who was sleeping inside the station with their rifles," said one of the employees. "Then they forced him to stand facing the wall as they started smashing cameras and other electronic equipment, including computers." Following the pre-dawn attack, the station was forced to suspend its broadcasts until further notice. Palestinian Authority security forces rushed to the scene, but were unable to arrest any of the gunmen. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate strongly condemned the attack and called for holding a demonstration at Manger Square on Friday. "These attacks are very serious," said syndicate head Naim Toubasi. "We can't remain idle in the face of attacks on our journalists and media organizations. These attacks serve Israel's interests." Hamdi Farraj, director of Shepherds' TV, said the attack wouldn't silence the voice of the station. "We won't be deterred by this attack," he said. "We will continue to carry the message and voice of the Palestinians." However, Farraj, a resident of Dehaishe refugee camp near Bethlehem, said the station would not resume its broadcasts as long as the workers did not feel safe and secure. Muhammad Manasreh, a local journalist, described the attack as "primitive" and said the station would continue to defend the people and their "just cases." Shepherds' TV has been the target of several assaults over the past few years. PA security forces repeatedly closed down the station between 1997 and 2000. During once incident, PA policemen raided the station and beat Farraj and several other staff members. Some of the policemen even threatened to shoot the workers. The station has been accused by the PA of "promoting religious strife" in Bethlehem and reporting on corruption among top PA officials. Former PA chairman Yasser Arafat personally ordered the station closed for various periods because of the reporting. About five years ago, the station was ordered shut by the PA for airing a Palestinian play (originally written by a South-African playwright) that tells the story of a people waiting for the return of Christ. Instead of the Messiah, it is a settler who ultimately shows up. Produced by the local Sanabel Theatre, the play was received favorably by many Palestinians and in overseas churches. But there were no standing ovations by the Christian community in Bethlehem, whose angry protest led Arafat to order the closure of the station.