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Hamas govt promises to ease media restrictions

March 25, 2011 4:52 P.M. (Updated: March 26, 2011 5:52 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) The head of the media office of the Gaza government, Hassen Abu Hasheesh, said Friday that the ministry of interior decided to end harassment of journalists in the Gaza Strip.

"After consulting with the minister of interior, Fathi Hammad, and as a result of a quick meeting between media colleagues and the minister about incidents that have taken place in recent days, we decided not to harass any journalists."

The government in Gaza will not intimidate local media "through beating, cursing, insulting or chasing the journalists or raiding their offices without due legal justification," Abu Hasheesh said.

The government will stop arresting journalists and will release any journalist who is detained, he added.

He said this was the Hamas government's policy from the beginning, "based on press freedoms and respecting the media. What has happened from time to time is due to political tensions."

The treatment of journalists in Gaza has drawn criticism from the Foreign Press Association, which accused Hamas last Tuesday of a "disturbing pattern of harassment and intimidation" against the media.

"Unfortunately, our past appeals for press freedom have repeatedly been ignored by Hamas," an FPA statement said. "We again demand that Hamas allow journalists to do their work and respect the basic right of freedom of the press. Continued harassment will affect coverage of the story."

On Saturday, about 100 reporters held an impromptu demonstration in front of a Hamas building in Gaza City protesting their treatment at a protest that was violently dispersed.

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