Gunmen ransack Gaza newspaper office

Palestinian journalists condemn attack as attempt to silence free media in PA.

gunman raising head 88 (photo credit: )
gunman raising head 88
(photo credit: )
A group of gunmen on Sunday went on a rampage inside the offices of the online newspaper Donia al-Watan in Gaza City, destroying furniture and equipment and threatening to kill the editor-in-chief, Abdallah Issa. No one was hurt in the attack, the latest in a series of assaults on journalists and media organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Donia al-Watan is an independent newspaper that has been reporting extensively on corruption and lawlessness in the Palestinian Authority - issues that the PA-controlled media often tend to ignore. Sources in the newspaper said the attackers were members of one of the Palestinian factions, but refused to elaborate. According to the sources, the gunmen were sent by the secretary-general of the faction to attack the offices and threaten the editor-in-chief following a critical report about him that appeared in the newspaper recently. Palestinian journalists and political activists strongly condemned the attack as an attempt to silence the voices of the free media in PA-controlled areas. "This is an assault on the freedom of expression," said a statement issued by the Palestinian National Initiative group. "This is also an attempt to silence the brave voices at a time when we are in need of the words of truth." Aziz Matar, an engineer and columnist from Ramallah, described the assailants as "mercenaries." He added: "We must not allow our country to be dominated by a group of corrupt people and criminals. This attack won't force us to change our policy of unmasking all those who are corrupt and we will continue to oppose anarchy and lawlessness." Imtiyaz al-Mughrabi, who writes regularly for Donia al-Watan, said the only way to deal with anarchy is by confiscating illegal weapons "that are being used against our children, women and elderly, as well as our writers." Over the past few years, several Palestinian journalists and newspapers were attacked by unidentified gunmen. In March 2004, gunmen shot and killed Khalil Zaban, editor of a Gaza-based weekly specializing in human rights that had waged a campaign against corruption in the PA. The attack came as PA security forces launched a massive campaign in various parts of the Gaza Strip in a bid to restore law and order. The campaign, ordered by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, comes amid growing criticism of the PA's failure to fight crime. During the campaign, gunmen stole a PA police vehicle in the Nussairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. PA security officials said the crackdown was directed only against criminal elements and that there would be no attempt to confiscate weapons belonging to various Palestinian militias, including Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In a related development, scores of Palestinians staged a sit-in strike in Gaza City to protest against the PA's failure to capture the assassins of university lecturer Yasser al-Madhoun, who was killed last year. Madhoun, who taught at al-Azhar University, was gunned own by unidentified gunmen. The motives behind the murder remain unclear. In more scenes of lawlessness, three Palestinians were murdered in Ramallah over the past week. One of them was a 75-year-old woman.