The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Arab journalists’ groups today called for urgent action to protect journalists working in the Gaza area of Palestine where they say threats from political extremists and recent violence against media have created a “climate of intolerable intimidation.”
“Free reporting and professional journalism has become all but impossible in Gaza as extremists are targeting reporters and media outlets,” warned Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary in Algeria at a meeting of leaders of IFJ affiliates and journalists groups from ten Middle Eastern countries.
The meeting called on the Palestinian government and Hamas leaders to take action to provide protection to journalists and to crackdown on extremists who are targeting journalists.
On Tuesday hundreds of Palestinian journalists protested a bombing the day earlier of the Gaza office of Al Arabiya television. The journalists called on the Hamas-led government and President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah to press the security sources to find the culprits, according to press reports.
“Palestinian journalists, and those in Gaza in particular, are now targeted routinely by groups with links to Hamas and others,” said White. “They are in a political trap, with the government or other groups trying to intimidate and attack them if they attempt anything approaching critical or independent journalism. Gaza is becoming as deadly an area as the suburbs of Baghdad.”
The bombing was apparently in response to a tape the Dubai-based satellite channel played on the air. On the tape Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that "even if Allah gave us orders, we would never make concessions" to the Israelis. Hamas alleged his words were taken out of context and it threatened legal action.
Palestinian journalists from various media outlets also held a day-long news blackout on Tuesday to protest over the attack.
The IFJ is calling on the Palestinian government to bring those responsible for the Al Arabiya bombing to justice and to make it clear that it will protect journalists even when their reporting is critical of the government or any political groups in the country.
Al Arabiya’s local manager accused the Palestinian government of failing to prevent the attack. She said the company had told the government about threats made against its staff.
Although Hamas has said it was not involved in the attack or the telephone threats and Hamas and the rival al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Fatah, condemned the bombing, the journalists remain convinced that political extremists from within the bubbling political confrontation in the region are responsible for this and other actions against media.
For further information contact the IFJ: +32 2 235 22 00
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries