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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Freedom of the Press, Hamas-style

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms [sic] just released a few recent examples of how Hamas completely restricts what journalists can do in Gaza.

Here are some of them:

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) expresses its concern about the deteriorating situation of media freedoms in Gaza Strip. This week MADA has monitored several violations against journalists, they are: the detention of the dean of Media faculty in Aqsa university Dr. Ahmad Hamad and the Greek director Bindles Baba Byblos after filming a wedding in Beit Hanoun, the prevention of France Press Agency photographer Mohammed Al-Baba from covering a march for “ Hizb Al-Tahrir” in Alnasser area in Gaza, and the prevention of Alshu’la newspaper chief editor Saher Alaqra’ and the correspondent of Sawt Falesteen Radio (Palestinian public radio) Tamim Abu Muammar from traveling to Egypt, in addition to the continued prevention of the three daily newspapers (Al-Hayat Aljadedeh, Al-Ayyam and Al-Quds) to enter Gaza Strip since 7 July 2010.

According to Hamad he said that he had gone on Sunday evening, 11 July 2010 to Beit Hanoun, accompanied by lecturer Mohammad Abu Odeh, and the director Byblos to film a wedding there to conclude it in a documentary film about the life of citizens in Gaza. Hamad added: "After we finished filming we left the wedding around 11 pm, but we were surprised that the police were waiting for us. They asked us about the tape which the director filmed, and when I asked them why? They answered: because you have filmed without permission, and conducted an interview with the father of the groom. And after an argument they took us to a police station in Beit Hanoun, and after they searched the car and watched the tape, the Superintendent Detective said the tape is normal and does not have anything to harm the government. But another person interfered and said that the groom’s fathers hold the government the responsibility for poverty, unemployment and hunger in the Gaza.” After many calls they release us after hour and a half of detention.”

Al-Baba said that he was filming a march of “Hizb Al-Tahrir” in Alnasser area/ Maqqousi Towers on Tuesday, 13 July 2010 at 5:00 PM, during the filming, a group belonging to the criminal investigation police unit attacked him and confiscated his personal stuff (camera - laptop – mobile ), and they took him to the police station in Alshate’area. After detaining him for an hour they asked him to sign a pledge that he won’t publish any picture about the march’s event, because there is a superior order banning media converge of the march.

As I reported yesterday, the Hizb ut Tahrir rally was broken up with live fire and Hamas policemen beating participants, seriously injuring a child.

If Hamas is restricting even documentary filmmakers from making videos, and banning journalists from rallies in Gaza, it becomes irresponsible for the mainstream media to report anything from Gaza without adding a caveat that their ability report facts objectively is impossible due to Hamas policies. Every Reuters photo should include the explanation that "this picture was allowed to be shown by Hamas authorities." The media freely mentions Israeli censorship policies when it impacts their work - yet you will not see them say anything about Hamas' complete control over their movements, actions and reporting.

By not reporting on Hamas' restrictions on their freedoms, the Western media in Gaza is complicit with Hamas' policies. The world's perception of Gaza is completely dependent on reporters who willingly withhold most of the information they know about Hamas' excesses.