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Wednesday, March 30, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Hamas flips, vows 'not to harass any journalists'

GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime has pledged to end its crackdown on journalists in the Gaza Strip.


Officials said the Interior Ministry has decided it would no longer detain journalists without formal charges. They said security forces would be prohibited from abusing journalists or arbitrarily raiding their offices.

"After consulting with Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, and as a result of a quick meeting between media colleagues and the minister about incidents that have taken place in recent days, we decided not to harass any journalists," Hassan Abu Hashish, head of the government press office, said.

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In a statement on March 25, Abu Hashish acknowledged the arrest of more than a dozen journalists in March amid the Hamas crackdown on demonstrations for a government with the opposition Fatah movement. He said all detained journalists would be released.

"There will no longer be harassment of journalists through beating, cursing, insulting or chasing the journalists or raiding their offices without due legal justification," Abu Hashish said.

Officials said the Hamas statement reflected international outrage, particularly by the European Union, of the raids of the offices of major foreign news agencies based in Gaza City. They said the foreign media had threatened to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

"What has happened from time to time is due to political tensions," Abu Hashish said.

Foreign journalists have warned that the Hamas crackdown would affect coverage of the Gaza Strip. They said Hamas has attacked journalists whenever anti-regime unrest appeared.

"Unfortunately, our previous appeals for press freedom have repeatedly been ignored by Hamas," the Foreign Press Association said. "We again demand that Hamas allow journalists to do their work and respect the basic right of freedom of the press. Continued harassment will affect coverage of the story."

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