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Ma'an report: the cessation of media activity during the recent conflict

June 20, 2007 4:53 P.M. (Updated: June 20, 2007 4:53 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an report - Local Palestinian radio stations in the Gaza Strip were launched in quick succession over recent years. As many as eleven radio stations were counted operating in Gaza Strip in a short space of time. Many of the stations had been closed and looted during the recent conflict in the strip.

Ash Sha'b station, affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was looted, whilst Al Hurriya and Ash Shabab, affiliated to Fatah, chose to cease transmission.

Palestine satellite TV station was deserted by its employees and another station transmitted continuous news, even though it was previously an entertainment station.

Qassam Brigades deny responsibility

The spokesperson of the military wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, Abu Ubayda, vehemently denied that the brigades had threatened any of the local stations.

Abu Ubayda told Ma'an that the radio stations halted transmission willingly because they were working within a certain framework and their coverage of events in Gaza was partial, rather than objective.

He added that the employees and owners of the radio stations closed them out of fear, rather than any direct threats from the Qassam Brigades.

Abu Ubayda also said that some of the radio stations were affiliated to well-known Fatah figures, or directly owned by Fatah.

He renewed the denial that the Qassam Brigades or Executive Force took control of the laborers radio station, which belongs to the laborers union, in northern Gaza. "We have not threatened any station, all stopped voluntarily because they were biased," said Abu Ubayda.

Eight radio stations continue transmission

Four of the radio stations operating in the Gaza Strip, considered religious or affiliated to religious movements, continued operation: Al Quds, affiliated to Islamic Jihad; Al Aqsa, affiliated to Hamas; Al Eiman, independent and Al Quran Al Karim, affiliated to the ministry of religious endowments.

Four others maintained transmission: Alwan, independent; Al Manar, independent; Gaza FM, which shifted from entertainment to news and Al Irada for disabled people in the central Gaza Strip.

Many cease transmission

In contrast, many radio stations ceased transmission: that of the laborers union, in addition to the two affiliated to Fatah; Ash Shabab and Al Hurriya.

The PFLP radio station, which ceased transmission after being looted, estimated losses of $70,000.

Palestine TV and radio stations

Palestine radio stopped transmission from the Gaza Strip during the recent events. A statement was issued accusing the Al Qassam Brigades of torching the station's headquarters and a local transmission tower in Khan Younis.

Palestine satellite and terrestrial TV stopped transmission last Friday in Gaza City and began transmitting from Ramallah, in the central West Bank. The director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, Basim Abu Sumayya, ascribed the stoppage to Hamas' seizure of the Gaza Strip, which prevented employees from accessing the company's buildings in order to work.

Abu Sumayya accused Hamas of taking control of every property that belongs to the PBC, in addition to the live transmission vehicle and the satellite frequency, which the PBC changed immediately.

Abu Sumayya said that 720 employees work at the PBC. They are now at home until the situation is settled politically.

Hamas "protects media"

For his part, the spokesperson of Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, denied that the lives of journalists are in jeopardy in the Gaza Strip. He reiterated Hamas' call for the employees of the PBC to return to work. He expressed sorrow for the PBC director's decision to ban the return of employees. Abu Zuhri assured that the employees' salaries are secure.

The spokesman also called on the Palestinian government to allow media outlets to film the PBC building, which he assured that Hamas is protecting and said that none of the building's contents have been stolen. He said, "Let the world watch Palestinian TV because we protect it."

As for the radio stations, which stopped their transmission, Abu Zuhri said they did so voluntarily because they were involved in inciting and they committed criminal acts when they were fuelling disputes in the Palestinian arena. He asserted that the Al-Qassam Brigades and Executive Force never attacked or robbed any radio station.

Hamas sole broadcaster

The Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, which many accuse of lacking professionalism and fuelling dispute, was the sole TV station that continued broadcasting during the conflict in the Gaza Strip. They transmitted special photos of the Al-Qassam Brigades and the Executive Force, while they were storming the security HQs. They also conducted exclusive interviews with Hamas leaders. The most criticism-provoking act of Al-Aqsa TV was the transmission of the execution of Samih Al-Madhoun.

Ma'an threatened in Gaza

The chief editor of Ma'an News Agency threatened to close the agency's Gaza office as a result of the pressure exerted on him and the agency's correspondents and photojournalists. The Al-Qassam Brigades visited the office, but did not harm any employee or property. Meanwhile, Hamas and their Fatah allies criticised Ma'an's reports and some issued threats.
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