GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The attorney-general in the Hamas-run government on Thursday ordered the closure of the Ma'an News Agency and Al-Arabiya TV bureaus in Gaza.
A Hamas official told AFP that the attorney-general closed Al-Arabiya's office "for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what's happening in Egypt."
"We received the closure notice and an official statement from Al-Arabiya will be published to respond to this decision," its Gaza correspondent, Islam Abd Al Kareem, told AFP.
The closure order from the attorney-general was delivered to Ma'an by officials from the Hamas-run Ministry of Information and security forces.
Ministry officials accompanied by security forces questioned the Gaza bureau chief in his office on Thursday over a report published on Ma'an's Arabic site that quoted information translated from a Hebrew news site.
The report said that six Muslim Brotherhood officials had smuggled themselves into Gaza to plan an uprising against the military in Cairo, after their Egyptian president was deposed.
A ministry official told Ma'an's bureau chief that the report was false.
"Ma'an News agency insists that the Gaza Strip is involved in the Egyptian crisis seeking to intensify the incitement in Egypt against the Strip," the ministry official said.
"Ma'an deliberately publishes false news reports seeking to incite against Gaza. It has become complicit with Egyptian media outlets in incitement against the Strip and making up lies to harm the image of Palestinian resistance," the official continued.
Commenting on the accusations, Ma'an's editor-in-chief Nasser Lahham said "some people in Gaza seemingly went mad after the Muslim Brotherhood rule was ousted in Egypt.
"They take any possible occasion to wage tough attacks against Ma'an News Agency for no reason. We have lodged official complaints to the office of the Gaza premier, to the former Minister of Information Mustafa Barghouthi, to the Ministry of Information and to the union of Palestinian journalists."
Lahham added that Ma'an would also complain about threats to its staff to the Union of Arab Journalists and to the International Federation of Journalists.
Addressing the Hamas government, Lahham said: "We challenge them to prove that Ma'an tells lies in its reports.
"We translate reports from other languages to serve our readers. When (Hamas) likes the translated reports because they contain criticism to the Palestinian president, to the Palestinian Authority or to the PLO, they quote Ma'an and publish the reports on their websites. But when the translated reports do not serve their interests, they go crazy and start wailing unjustifiably," he added.
"We will complain to the Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal and to the Hamas bloc in parliament. We will never allow them or any others to continue to scare journalists simply because Gaza isn't a property they inherited from their ancestors. Gaza is a homeland for all and everybody should better learn how to behave and talk politely," Lahham said.
Responding to the closure, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information in Ramallah said all media outlets had the right to work freely without obstacles or harassment.
In a statement, the ministry said it viewed "with great concern the harassment by Hamas security services against journalists and media organizations in Gaza, and the incitement against the offices of Ma'an News Agency and al-Arabiya channel in Gaza."
Similarly, the West Bank-based union of Palestinian journalists denounced attacks on Ma'an and Al-Arabiya by both Hamas' officials and journalists affiliated to the Islamist movement.
The union said in a statement that direct and implied threats by Hamas leaders to journalists working for Ma'an and Al-Arabiya were part of "a gloomy campaign against media outlets which shape the public opinion and uncover the truth."
The union highlighted that any objective complaint against individual journalists or organizations should be made to the union, which would make a professional judgment on a news outlet's ethics.