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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Freedom of the press, PalArab-style (X)

A British reporter details three incidents where Hamas stopped him from doing his job - and yet he still does everything he can to softpedal it.

From the Times (UK):
"I was arrested by Hamas"
Today I was detained while watching a demonstration by female students Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip.

They had gone on strike at noon in protest against the killings in the rally yesterday, and they had made their way to a nearby police station where they were singing and chanting. In particular, they yelled: 'Shia, Shia, Shia,' which is a reference to Hamas being funded by Iran.

Within a few minutes, baton-wielding police laid into the girls. Some fell to the ground, but most ran away.

As this was happening, some other members of the police force grabbed me and dragged me into a cell. They pushed me against the wall, and one of the officers shouted: 'Hit him, hit him, hit him' in Arabic.

They snatched the camera from me, and one of the police officers urged his colleagues to break my camera. Then, my cameraman was dragged into the room too.

Another police officer, more senior than the others, eventually arrived and insisted on viewing the videotape that my cameraman had. I kept telling them that I was a journalist and that I would telephone the chief of police unless I was released, and eventually they did so.

Today's incident follows two previous incidents yesterday, in which my activities as a journalist were deliberately curtailed.

The first took place just as gunfire erupted at the Gaza City demonstration yesterday. We were filming police officers standing by their station, when several officers rushed over, fired shots in the air, snatched my camera and dragged me into the police station, where they threatened to smash my camera and hit me.

When I convinced them that I was a British journalist they let me go, but only after telling me to leave the area.

The second incident took place shortly afterwards when I went to the Shifa Hospital where those wounded in the fighting were being taken.

While we were filming, the police arrived at the hospital. They had orders to clear the hospital of all cameramen, and they took my camera. The officer who seized my equipment was very polite to me. He told me that I would be able to get the camera back only if I went to the police station in an hour and a half's time.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the press to operate in the Gaza Strip. This is very much a reflection of the high level of tension that exists at the moment.

But by comparison with some of the treatment I've had in other parts of the world, this was relatively mild.
Of course, this intrepid reporter didn't bother to ask the obvious question: if a British journalist is treated this way, how is Hamas treating Arab journalists?
A correspondent for the Ramallah-based Palestine radio was attacked and beaten by the de facto government's police in Gaza City while he was covering the Fatah-organized rally in Gaza City marking the third anniversary of the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in which seven people were killed and scores injured, he told Ma'an via telephone.

Thirty-year-old Tamim Abu Mu'ammar told Ma'an that he was trying to send a report by telephone to the Palestine radio in Ramallah about the attacks on the rally when the de facto government's police beat him with clubs and rifle butts.

He said they searched his cell phone and ordered him to leave the scene, threatening to attack him if they saw him again.

Mu'ammar said his whole body was covered in bruises.
PCHR adds:
The police also chased rally participants and beat them with batons and sticks. In the meantime, several journalists were attacked, including:

- Khaled Jamal Bolbol, a photographer for Zoom Press. He was beaten and his camera was broken and confiscated.

- Mohammad Sawalha, a photographer for Abu Dhabi Satellite Station. He was detained and his camera tape was confiscated.

- Mowafaq Matar, a journalist for Al-Hayat Newspaper. He was detained and pictures were erased from his camera.
Palestine Press Agency reports that more journalists were arrested last night by Hamas.

Business as usual in Hamastan.