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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The death of Palestinian Arab journalism

I've touched on this topic before, but it is more clear than ever that there are no more real outlets for independent Palestinian Arab journalism ever since Hamas won Gaza.

While even before the civil war there would be daily murders in Gaza from clan clashes and work accidents, since Hamas took over they have all mysteriously disappeared. Even "human rights" organizations like PCHR have stopped trying to keep track of Arab violence - according to them, no one has died in nearly two weeks. Even Hamas has admitted to fighters dying from injuries since then.

Ma'an News, which was very flawed but was the closest thing to real journalism that the PalArabs had, has given up. It spins any articles that might be negative towards Hamas as much as possible, and it is refusing to directly report abuses in Gaza. I just found this article from last week where, in the last sentence, they admit to being threatened:
Gaza – Ma'an report – Local Palestinian radio stations in the Gaza Strip were launched in quick succession over recent years. As many as eleven radio stations were counted operating in Gaza Strip in a short space of time. Many of the stations had been closed and looted during the recent conflict in the strip.

Ash Sha'b station, affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was looted, whilst Al Hurriya and Ash Shabab, affiliated to Fatah, chose to cease transmission.

Palestine satellite TV station was deserted by its employees and another station transmitted continuous news, even though it was previously an entertainment station.

The spokesperson of the military wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, Abu Ubayda, vehemently denied that the brigades had threatened any of the local stations.

Abu Ubayda told Ma'an that the radio stations halted transmission willingly because they were working within a certain framework and their coverage of events in Gaza was partial, rather than objective.

He added that the employees and owners of the radio stations closed them out of fear, rather than any direct threats from the Qassam Brigades.

Abu Ubayda also said that some of the radio stations were affiliated to well-known Fatah figures, or directly owned by Fatah.

He renewed the denial that the Qassam Brigades or Executive Force took control of the laborers radio station, which belongs to the laborers union, in northern Gaza. "We have not threatened any station, all stopped voluntarily because they were biased," said Abu Ubayda.

Palestine satellite and terrestrial TV stopped transmission last Friday in Gaza City and began transmitting from Ramallah, in the central West Bank. The director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, Basim Abu Sumayya, ascribed the stoppage to Hamas' seizure of the Gaza Strip, which prevented employees from accessing the company's buildings in order to work.

Abu Sumayya accused Hamas of taking control of every property that belongs to the PBC, in addition to the live transmission vehicle and the satellite frequency, which the PBC changed immediately.

Abu Sumayya said that 720 employees work at the PBC. They are now at home until the situation is settled politically.

For his part, the spokesperson of Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, denied that the lives of journalists are in jeopardy in the Gaza Strip....

As for the radio stations, which stopped their transmission, Abu Zuhri said they did so voluntarily because they were involved in inciting and they committed criminal acts when they were fuelling disputes in the Palestinian arena. He asserted that the Al-Qassam Brigades and Executive Force never attacked or robbed any radio station.

The Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, which many accuse of lacking professionalism and fuelling dispute, was the sole TV station that continued broadcasting during the conflict in the Gaza Strip. They transmitted special photos of the Al-Qassam Brigades and the Executive Force, while they were storming the security HQs. They also conducted exclusive interviews with Hamas leaders. The most criticism-provoking act of Al-Aqsa TV was the transmission of the execution of Samih Al-Madhoun.

The chief editor of Ma'an News Agency threatened to close the agency's Gaza office as a result of the pressure exerted on him and the agency's correspondents and photojournalists. The Al-Qassam Brigades visited the office, but did not harm any employee or property. Meanwhile, Hamas and their Fatah allies criticised Ma'an's reports and some issued threats.
There is certainly criticism of Hamas in the PalArab media - from "news" outlets that shill for Fatah, like WAFA. And there are pro-Hamas "news" outlets like Palestine Today. Each will report rumors as fact, opinions as news, and news that they don't like gets ignored.

But there is no longer any real news.