The International Federation of Journalists today condemned an armed attack by Palestinian gunmen on the studios of Palestine Television, allegedly carried out by supporters of the Palestinian governing party Hamas.
A group of gunmen stormed the television office in Gaza, complaining of bias from the network in favour of the rival Fatah party. After firing rounds of gunfire into studio equipment, the gunmen ordered the staff of the station out of the building. Although observers said the raid was carried out by Hamas gunmen, a spokesman for the group, Sami al-Zuhri, denied they were involved.
“Reports of gunmen running amok in a television station and terrorizing staff is a shocking indictment of the state of Palestinian politics,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “There is no excuse for such outrageous behaviour. It only underscores the concerns of journalists in the region that they are always the victims in the crossfire of political rivalry.”
White said that all sides in the continuing tension between Hamas, an Islamic party, and Fatah, the former governing party, should condemn any attacks on media and journalists and punish those of their supporters who intimidate and target journalists.
The attack on Palestine TV was the first such armed assault on the official TV network since Hamas won the parliamentary election in January. One reason for concerns about the incident is that the network is perceived to be under the control of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the leader of Fatah.
“Palestine television should not be the voice of a single party or group, but should speak for all Palestinians by maintaining an independent and professional approach to its journalism,” said White. “The challenge facing political leaders is to keep their hands off the controls of media and, above all, to encourage independent and professional journalism. Violence of any sort can never be tolerated, and nor can political control of journalism.”
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The International Federation of Journalists represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries.