Reporters Without Borders

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Hamas security forces in Gaza

Journalists have been paying dearly in the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian Territories since Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The resulting major split in the media was aggravated by the lack of agreement between the two movements on holding parliamentary and presidential elections in 2010.

The Hamas government has made it clear since June 2007 that it wants to control the media in Gaza, threatening media freedom. After the Gaza branch of the Union of Palestinian Journalists was disbanded, Hamas established a new system of accreditation for all telecommunications and Internet companies as well as broadcast media and news agencies based in the Gaza Strip. Hamas also enforced a 1996 law under which journalists can be imprisoned for putting out news deemed to threaten “national unity.”

Threats, physical violence and arbitrary arrest and detention by Hamas security forces are common. A score of journalists were arrested or roughed up during 2010 by the Hamas interior ministry’s security service. Such measures oblige Palestinian journalists to censor themselves. In mid-March last year, security forces harshly broke up meetings in the centre of Gaza City organised by the “March 15 Coalition” calling for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and arrested and beat journalists, including about 20 on 15 March 2011. Security forces raided many local and foreign media offices looking for photos of the crackdown.

Since last October, the head office of the Union of Palestinian Journalists in Gaza has been occupied by dozens of journalists affiliated to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The group seized the premises and evicted the staff, confiscating their mobile telephones and proclaiming themselves the new management. Their action was a damaging blow against journalists’ independence.

The Gaza interior minister imposed new regulations on 25 September making access to the Gaza Strip more difficult for foreign journalists. Since then, any foreigner wishing to enter the territory via the Erez and Rafah crossing points must obtain prior authorization from the interior ministry in Gaza. Journalists must complete an application and give the name of a guarantor in the territory. Such a tactic is a blow against the free movement of journalists.

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