The International Federation of
Journalists and its affiliate in the United
Kingdom, the National Union of Journalists, today
challenged the Gaza
authorities over the unprecedented action of security officials to detain a
British freelance journalist.
The arrest and detention
yesterday of documentary filmmaker Paul Martin came as he was about to give
evidence at a military tribunal. His detention was a "shocking violation of
journalists' rights" according to the IFJ, who demanded his immediate released.
Martin was told he was suspected
of security offences and would be held for 15 days, in an action that has
raised fears for the safety of all foreign correspondents in the Gaza Strip. He
had just begun to give evidence on behalf of a Gaza
man accused of collaborating with Israel when the prosecutor
intervened and ordered police to arrest him. Eye witness reports say he was
roughly treated as he was taken from the court.
Martin, who has produced reports
in the past for the BBC and the Times, is accused of harming Gaza's security. He was
due to speak on behalf of Mohammed Abu Muailik, with whom he has been working
on a documentary and who has been in detention since June. The order to detain
him is reportedly based on a confession by Abu Muailik.
"This is an astonishing incident
that casts a shadow over all foreign correspondents trying to work in Gaza," said Aidan White,
IFJ General Secretary. "Hamas must guarantee the rights of journalists in the
This concern was echoed by the
NUJ in London. "Journalists
must be allowed to work freely, without intimidation and fear of being
arrested," said Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary. "We support calls from the
IFJ and from groups on the ground for Martin to be set free."
What worries the IFJ is that this
incident signals a change in attitude from Hamas in its dealings with local
foreign correspondents. Until now Hamas, which took over Gaza from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud
Abbas, nearly three years ago, has avoided confrontations with foreign
A spokeswoman for the British
consulate in Jerusalem
said the British government was "very concerned" and has been in
touch with Martin's family. Raji Sourani, a prominent human rights lawyer in Gaza, said he was asked by
Martin to represent him.
For more information contact the IFJ at
+32 2 235 2200
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide