The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Hamas government in Palestine over the revival after 10 years of a media law and a governmental media committee, claiming this signals new threats to press freedom.
In particular, the IFJ is concerned by Hamas action directed against the leadership of the Palestine Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) and its President Naim Toubassi who is a member of the IFJ Executive Committee.
“We are witnessing clear political interference in journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The organisation of journalists is a matter for journalists alone, not for regulation by divisive political forces.”
The Council of the PJS has appealed to the IFJ for support, claiming Hamas is targeting the syndicate and its president because of its outspoken defence of journalists’ interests.
“Going on past experience, we have no doubt that the activation of 1995 media law is intended to impose severe restrictions on free journalism,” said White.
Journalists are increasingly under pressure in the region as the rivalry of Hamas and the Fatah faction in Palestinian politics has led to the growing separation of Gaza and the West Bank. There have been raids on PJS offices and many Gaza leaders of the Syndicate have fled to the West Bank. The situation became more tense with the issuing of a controversial press statement in the name of the Gaza section of the syndicate which criticised in strong terms the actions of Hamas forces.
The government reacted angrily denouncing the statement as lies. Yesterday Mohamed Abu Hasheish, head of government press office in Gaza and deputy minister of information, said that the government had decided to stop dealing with the PJS leadership “until journalists are able to put their syndicate in order.”
Later in the day Tahir Al Nouno the head of the newly-formed governmental media committee announced in Gaza that they are dissolving the PJS. The IFJ says the action is provocative and unwarranted.
“It is for journalists’ themselves to decide what action, if any, needs to be taken,” said White. "We support the syndicate’s efforts to bring about reform – but this is their business, not that of politicians.”
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide