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Palestinian press group urges Hamas to release journalists

Jan. 27, 2013 8:30 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2013 2:24 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on Sunday called on Hamas to release six journalists detained in a media crackdown in Gaza last week.

The Palestinian syndicate, together with other journalists, held a protest in front of the press group's headquarters in Al-Bireh, which was attended by members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Fatah's Central Committee, a Ma'an correspondent said.

Abdel Nasser al-Najjar, head of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, said during a speech that the journalists must be released, adding that their arrests come at a very sensitive time for political reconciliation.

Fatah leader Tawfiq Tirawi said that journalists have long struggled against Israel's occupation and stressed the need to immediately release those detained by Hamas, and to end all political arrests.

The Palestinian syndicate says Hamas forces launched the crackdown last Sunday, raiding the homes of journalists and detaining them over a 48-hour period.

The journalists are Abdul Karim Hajji, Hussein Abdel-Gawad Karsou, Bassam Darwich, Ashraf Abu Khasewan, Mustafa Mekdad and Jumua Abu Shoumer, it said.

On Sunday, Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he would look into the cases of those arrested and make a decision about them, a statement from his office said.

'Those persons are not journalists'

The International Federation of Journalists on Thursday accused the security forces in Gaza of launching a major crackdown on the media.

"The climate of sheer brutality and ruthless intimidation targeting media in Gaza has again shown that Hamas is no friend of press freedom," said IFJ president Jim Boumelha, in a statement.

Hamas has repeatedly targeted the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the years since taking power in 2007, and has sought to replace its membership with Hamas-affiliated media.

On Wednesday, the Hamas government flatly denied arresting any journalists, a Ma'an correspondent said after a meeting with interior ministry officials in Gaza City.

A statement from the interior ministry said that "The summons of a number of persons with different jobs was to question them on certain issues that threaten the security of the community."

It added: "Those persons are not journalists at all. Even those who work as journalists use this field as a cover to carry out suspicious acts."

The journalists are employees of al-Katab satellite channel, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the websites Fatah Youth and Aswar press, and al-Hurriya radio as well as other news outlets.
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