Journalists’ Groups Demand Hamas Free Detained British Journalist

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

area."  

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

journalists.

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