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Report: Rafah Today journalist prevented from travel to US

March 19, 2010 7:18 P.M. (Updated: March 20, 2010 10:45 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer was denied a visa to the United States where he was scheduled to speak in Chicago about the living conditions in Palestine, tour organizers said.

"Effectively canceling a planned speaking tour, the U.S. consulate in the Netherlands has put an extended hold on the visa application of [Omer]," tour organizers in Chicago wrote in a news statement.

When contacted, a representative said, the US Consulate in the Netherlands said it could not provide an update, while the US embassy told organizers they could not help.

The tour would see Omer speak in Santa Fe, Houston, and Chicago, where he would have been hosted by Haymarket Books in Chicago at the Newberry Library, which will reportedly go ahead with the event via skype.

The event is funded by Lannan Foundation, whose focus is the promotion of "cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers."

Host organizations in Santa Fe and Houston are considering keeping their events in place as well, a Haymarket spokeswoman said.

Omer - journalist and photojournalist for Rafah Today and correspondent for The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - will instead speak at all his engagements via skype or video conference, the statement said.

Omer was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2008 for "his firsthand reportage of life in the besieged Gaza strip."

On his way back to Gaza after accepting the prize in London, Omer was detained, interrogated, and beaten by Israeli security forces and eventually hospitalized with cracked ribs and respiratory problems.
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