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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Journalists, NGOs complain of Hamas restrictions

From Reporters Without Borders:
Reporters Without Borders is worried by the Hamas interior ministry’s adoption of new rules for foreign journalists that will restrict their access to the Gaza Strip.

Under the new rules, adopted on 25 September, every foreign journalist wanting to visit the Gaza Strip will have to apply in advance to the interior ministry in Gaza, and processing the application could take several days.

Journalists submitting applications will have to include a photocopy of their passport and ID photos, and will have to name a “guarantor” in the Gaza Strip.
The official PA Wafa news agency adds:
A number of foreign employees and local journalists in Gaza complained of restrictions imposed by Hamas on the entry of foreigners into the sector, forcing them to pay 'access control' fees in order to make more money for its treasury.

The sources added that a number of journalists and staff of institutions that support humanitarian projects in the sector remain in Jerusalem, and refuse to come to Gaza because of the restrictions.

One expatriate staff member told Wafa, "We have no problem with the registration of in and out of Gaza; the problem in the payment of funds to Hamas. To give money to Hamas means funding a designated terrorist organization and the legal [complications] may result in suspension of relief projects in Gaza. "

Sources told Wafa that Hamas imposes restrictions on foreigners in order to monitor local journalists who work in the sector in addition to acquiring funds from the so-called 'access control' levy.

Hamas charges about $10 to any foreigners who want to stay in Gaza, and the procedures required to register before entering takes at least five days.

A local journalist who refused to be named said, 'if a foreign journalist wrote material critical of Hamas, the local journalist, who acts as his assistant and translator, is the one who bears the responsibility and this constitutes a threat to it. "

The journalist added that there are numerous restrictions faced by journalists in Gaza and they can not shoot or write anything about what is really happening in Gaza behind the scenes.
That last part I hadn't heard of before. Since most foreign journalists cannot get around Gaza without locals, Hamas leans on the locals and threatens or punishes them if their guest writes anything that Hamas doesn't like.

Even the bravest reporters would hesitate before writing something that would put their friends and colleagues in danger. Not that there are any brave reporters in Gaza who are willing to report negatively on Hamas to begin with.