Arab Journalists Demand that Hamas Stop Censoring Media

October 21, 2013  

A group of journalists rallied in Ramallah on Sunday to launch a petition to reopen the Gaza bureaus of the Ma’an News Agency and the Al Arabiya network.

Ma’an reported that the petition states that the closure of the media offices violates Article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law, which entitles the freedom of opinion, and Article 27, which allows anyone to operate a media outlet.

Rally leader Omar Nazzal said that the petition aims to pressure Hamas to reopen the media offices, adding that the closures were a “slap in the face” for freedom of expression.

Nazzal called on intellectuals and writers to sign the petition.

Ma’an’s Gaza bureau has been closed since July 25. The attorney-general in the Hamas-run government ordered the closures of both media outlets after Hamas officials accused them of deliberately publishing “false news reports seeking to incite against Gaza.”

Ma’an announced in early October that it would stop working in Gaza as it seeks to recoup financial losses from the Hamas government’s closure of its Gaza City office.

In a statement, Ma’an said that the Hamas government had seized control of its office and equipment in the weeks since the closure and it could therefore no longer justify paying expenses toward the operation.

The statement also reiterated “complete confidence in our colleagues in Gaza” and insisted it remained committed to its “administrative and financial commitments” toward them.

Factions in the Palestinian Authority were angry with Hamas over its censorship of the two outlets.

The culture and media commission of the Fatah faction chaired by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas said the closures violated PA Arabs’ right to information. It called on Arab media organizations and human rights groups to act against threats to the media.

In the past, however, Abbas too censored news websites linked to his fiercest critics. He subsequently ordered the censorship to be lifted after coming under fire for it.

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