The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ group today condemned a raid by masked gunmen on the Ramallah offices of the Dubai-based Arabic satellite news channel Al-Arabiyya.
Producer Qassem Al-Khateeb told the IFJ that on 13 September, five masked and armed men entered the building where Al-Arabiyya is housed and ordered him and the two other employees at the station at gunpoint to go to the editing room where they destroyed office equipment, including computer screens and furniture. Al-Khateeb said the attack lasted less than five minutes and that as the men left, they told the journalists they did not want to see them working there again.
They also said they were from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group loosely linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization. However, a spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade denied responsibility for the raid.”
“This is a sinister attack that once again illustrates just how vulnerable media are to pressure in the Middle East,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We support the concerns of our colleagues at the Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists over the incident and demand that the Palestinian Authority investigate who was responsible.
Al-Khateeb said that the men never gave a reason for the attack, but that the station’s recent reports on internal struggles within the Palestinian Authority, including control over security services and the role of the Palestinian prime minister, may have angered some.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat later summoned Al-Arabiyya staff to his Ramallah office and promised an investigation.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries