Palestinian journalists increasingly targeted

PA security officers, outlaw militiamen wound 12 journalists in April alone.

gaza gunmen 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza gunmen 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Attacks on Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip increased significantly last month, according to a report published Thursday. Meanwhile, a Palestinian human rights group announced that 30 Palestinians were killed in internal fighting in the Palestinian territories during April - 22 in the Gaza Strip and eight in the West Bank. It said at least 14 Palestinians were kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen during the same period and that some were brutally tortured or shot in the lower parts of the body. The report about the journalists was published by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms. It said at least 12 Palestinian journalists were wounded in attacks by militiamen, thugs and Palestinian Authority security officers during April. The report also cited a number of cases where a number of Palestinian journalists complained that they had been attacked by IDF soldiers while covering demonstrations in the West Bank during the same period. Referring to the attacks on the journalists by Palestinians, the center said: "What is dangerous about these assaults is that they are often carried out by guards of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian prime minister. It's also worth noting that some Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank are trying to copy the assaults that are taking place in the Gaza Strip by attacking journalists and media institutions. "We strongly condemn these serious crimes against the Palestinian journalists. We also condemn the continued kidnapping of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. The ongoing state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Palestinian territories provides fertile ground for such assaults." According to the report, six Palestinian journalists were wounded after being beaten by bodyguards accompanying PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on April 2. On April 10, Palestinian gunmen stormed the studios of the Zein Radio Station in Jenin and destroyed all the equipment, the report said. A week later, another six journalists were wounded when security officers attacked a peaceful demonstration outside the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council. On April 21, prominent Palestinian writer and journalist Ashraf Ajrami was moderately wounded when Hamas militiamen hurled a hand grenade at him near his home in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. The center expressed deep concern over the safety of the BBC correspondent, noting that this was the longest abduction of a foreigner in the Gaza Strip. "The fact that he has been held for so long [since March 12] raises doubts as to whether the Palestinian Authority is making a serious effort to release him," the report noted. "Palestinian journalists are living under very bad conditions," commented the independent Palestinian Maan news agency. "They are being beaten and their equipment is being destroyed. They are receiving death threats and some have been kidnapped." This has also been a bad week for journalists in Egypt and Jordan. On Wednesday, a judge in Cairo convicted an Al-Jazeera producer on charges of "harming Egypt's national interest" and "falsely depicting events" for her work on a documentary exposing police abuse. The judge sentenced Howayda Taha Matwali, who also works as a reporter for the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, to six months in prison and fined her 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,516). Matwali, who lives in Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based, was sentenced in absentia. Her lawyer, Gamal Eid, called the trial a sham, saying the judge prevented the defense from presenting its case. "We were denied our requests; not a single request was approved," Eid said, referring to rulings that prevented the defense from calling witnesses and introducing evidence. Earlier this week, Jordanian authorities banned the publication of the independent weekly Al-Majd. Editor Fahd al-Rimawi said that security agents moved Sunday to prevent printing of the edition because of a front-page story about a "secret plan" to oust the Hamas-led Palestinian government. The ban was triggered by the publication of a purported 16-page secret plan, backed by the US and some Arabs, to oust the Hamas-led coalition. In two other cases, Jordanian authorities seized interviews deemed harmful to national security or relations with neighboring countries. On April 18, the Jordanians confiscated a taped Al-Jazeera interview with former crown prince Hassan bin Talal over fears it might harm Jordan's relationship with Saudi Arabia.