Posted: 7/28/2008 5:58:00 PM
Author: Jerusalem Post & Associated Press Staff
Source: This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post online edition on July 28, 2008.
Hamas bans Fatah-affiliated newspapers
by Jerusalem Post 7 Associted Press Staff
Hamas's security forces on Monday banned the distribution of three Fatah-affiliated newspapers in the Gaza Strip as Palestinian journalists accused both parties of waging a campaign of intimidation against the local media.
In addition, several Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post they had received death threats from Hamas...over the past few days. The journalists said they had been warned against publishing material in support of Fatah.
"Many reporters are afraid to write or speak about the recent Hamas-Fatah standoff in the Gaza Strip," complained one journalist. "Our work under Hamas has become extremely dangerous."
Another reporter said he had been summoned late Sunday to the offices of a senior Hamas official in Gaza City where he was accused of "endorsing" Fatah's version of the mysterious explosion that killed five Hamas militiamen last Friday.
"Both Hamas and Fatah are threatening us," he said. "We are under heavy pressure from both governments in Ramallah and [in] Gaza."
Fatah has claimed that the explosion was the result of a power struggle in Hamas. The Islamic movement, on the other hand, has accused Fatah of being behind the killings.
The Palestinian dailies that were banned from the Gaza Strip are Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda. The first is a privately-owned paper published in east Jerusalem but loyal to the PA, while the other two are directly funded by the PA.
The papers were confiscated by Hamas policemen shortly after they were brought into the Gaza Strip.
A source in the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip told the Post the papers had been confiscated "because they were inciting against Hamas."
Sami Keshawi, director of Al-Ayyam in Gaza, condemned the act, saying it would have been better had the Hamas government informed the editors of the ban the night before.
"We have suffered financial losses because of the ban," he said. "Had we known, we wouldn't have printed the usual number of papers."
The editor of one of the three dailies said he did not know how long the ban would last. "This is an undemocratic measure that harms the reputation of the Palestinians," he said. "This is a flagrant violation of the freedom of expression."
The Palestinian Media Union (PMU), a group representing Palestinian journalists, condemned both Fatah and Hamas for "involving" Palestinian reporters in their power struggle. "Palestinian journalists have become the latest victims of this struggle," it said.
The PMU also warned its members of favoring one side over the other. "We must remain neutral," it said. "We must avoid serving as mouthpieces for any party."
The group also urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to stop targeting Palestinian journalists in the West Bank. Earlier this week, it said, Abbas's forces had detained two journalists: Mustafa Sabri from Kalkilya and Ala al-Titi from Hebron. The two, according to PA security sources, are suspected of membership in Hamas.
In a related development, forces loyal to Abbas arrested 54 Hamas supporters in the West Bank on Monday, sources close to Hamas announced.
The arrests came in response to Hamas's massive crackdown on Fatah in the Gaza Strip following the Friday bombing. At least 160 Fatah members and officials have been rounded up.
Hamas officials said Monday that most of the detainees had already been released.
Among those arrested by Abbas's security forces are Hafez Shaheen, the acting mayor of Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, and Dr. Abdel Sattar Qassem, a prominent university lecturer and former candidate in the PA presidential election.
In response, Hamas officials accused Abbas of being part of an Israeli-American "plot" to destroy the movement. They condemned the arrests as "disgraceful" and called on Palestinians in the West Bank to revolt against the PA leadership.
"Abbas's gangs in the West Bank are carrying out an arbitrary and dirty war against who they believe are Hamas supporters," said a Hamas official. "All those who were arrested last night are public figures, university lecturers and academics."
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accused Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad of seeking to eliminate Hamas to pave the way for signing an unacceptable peace agreement with Israel. He advised the two men to distance themselves from the alleged Israeli-American scheme and called on the PA security forces not to carry out their orders.