Hamas security forces assault journalist in Gaza

Hamas assaulted journalist Muhammad Fayyad on the job in Gaza, again violating the basic right of freedom of press.

A journalist working for the Arabic Al-Jazeera news network was physically assaulted by Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip while covering a Turkish minister’s visit to the coastal enclave on Sunday, Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports.

Journalist Muhammad Fayyad told the Palestinian Journalists Union that when he arrived at the Ministry of Endowments to photograph the visit, which he said he had permission to do, a security guard shoved him backwards.

After asking the plainclothes security guard why he was shoved, Fayyad was pushed again before being assaulted by a number of police officers who then forced him out of the building, he claims.

Fayyad also said that he “was struck on the head by a police officer” as he was being taken out of the building, Ma’an reports.

PA police

A PA policeman shoves a protester. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

According to Fayyad, the news story continues, he then went to a police station to file a complaint, but was surprised to find that the assaulting policemen had already reported him and that there was an arrest warrant against him.

At the police station, the journalist says, he began to feel the effects of the assault and was taken to the al-Shifa Hospital for treatment. He was later arrested by police officers and released on bail.

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The journalists’ union demanded that the Gaza security services stop all action taken against Fayyad and interrogate the security guards who assaulted him. The union also called on rights organizations, including the International Federation of Journalists and the Federation of Arab Journalists, to pressure Hamas to cease all violations against the press.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement that “during the visit of the Turkish minister of endowments…some journalists caused chaos and a disturbance that misrepresented our people’s image and embarrassed those responsible for the visit’s agenda.”

The statement added: “Accordingly, security men intervened to control the situation, leading to the arrest of the al-Jazeera reporter after he verbally abused and disturbed the security men’s job and did not commit to the visit’s arrangements. The journalist was later released until an investigation of the incident is complete, and legal procedures may be taken.”

The ministry called on journalists to respect procedures and arrangements made by security services during visits to the Gaza Strip.

The union said that the ministry’s statement was an “offense” to journalists and called on the ministry to listen to the testimonies of other members of the press who witnessed the incident.

No Freedom of Expression in PA and Gaza

The Gaza Center for Media Freedom reported hundreds of “violations of press freedom” across the Palestinian Authority (PA) territories last year – the deadliest year for Palestinian journalists on record. It also included 82 violations of press freedom committed by Palestinian authorities, who arrested or summoned 28 journalists and injured or assaulted 26 more.

A recent report by a leading Palestinian advocacy group says that human rights for Palestinians living under the PA and Hamas rule in Gaza are at their “worst” in years. Commission chief Ahmad Harb said other violations include bans on peaceful gatherings and that rights violations “increased in volume” over the past four years.

A recent poll conducted among the population reveals that they consider the Palestinian leadership to be corrupt and dangerous, they are bitterly disappointed with their lives under the PA, they believe they have no real freedom under either PA or Hamas rule, and a large segment is contemplating emigration. Only 21% say there is freedom of the press in PA-controlled Judea and Samaria, and 20% say the same about the situation in the Gaza Strip. Only 30% believe they can openly criticize Hamas and the PA without fear of retribution.