Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The IFJ Condemns Hamas Persecution of Journalists

American television journalist Barbara Walters interviews Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut, Lebanon, September 22, 1977.


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Hamas leadership in Gaza over the show trial of a newspaper editor as part of a continuing campaign against independent journalists.
The IFJ says the trial of Hafez Barghothi, editor of the daily Al-Hayat Aljadeeda, and continuing ban on distribution of Al Ayyam newspaper in the Gaza Strip and the trial and conviction of its editor Akram Haniyeh and cartoonist Baha Bukhari are violations of journalists’ rights. They are all being targeted because of their work.

This intimidation and political bullying of journalists does great damage to the Palestinian cause,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It undermines efforts of journalists throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip to work together to build a unified media movement in favour of stability and democratic development.”

At the same time the IFJ says that actions by the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, against journalists thought to be Hamas sympathisers has fuelled a “war of words” that may fracture attempts to strengthen the Palestinian journalists’ movement.

“The use of abusive and violent language only weakens the capacity for dialogue,” said White. “Journalists may argue over strategy, but they share common objectives.”

In particular, the IFJ has strongly criticised intemperate attacks on Naim Toubassi, President of the Palestine Journalists’ Syndicate and a member of the IFJ Executive Committee, who recently signed an agreement with the IFJ on plans to renew and relaunch the Syndicate over the coming months.

The IFJ said the invective of Yaser Abu Al-Hein, leader of the Journalists Bloc group in Gaza, earlier this month, directed at Toubassi and PJS board members in Gaza for failing to defend journalists affiliated with Hamas in the West Bank, was provocative, threatening and unacceptable.

“It’s time to end the war of words and for journalists to work together,” said White. “But that will only happen when political players on both sides of the Palestinian divide stop interfering in media.”

The IFJ says the agreement with the PJS opens the door to a vigorous and open debate among journalists that can lead to the creation of a unified movement able to defend all journalists in the region.

“Politicians and armed groups must get out of the way so that journalists can talk among themselves without fear or intimidation,” said White. “Palestine journalists yearn for reform and renewal and the international journalists’ community will support them every step of the way.”
(International Federation of Journalists)


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