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Journalists lament PA silence as Israel bans Gaza papers

June 13, 2014 9:05 P.M. (Updated: June 14, 2014 9:13 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian journalists on Thursday urged the newly-formed national unity government to respond to Israel's decision to prohibit the printing and distribution of Gaza-based newspapers in the West Bank.

"Do we need an Israeli presidential decree to be able to print newspapers in territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority?" editor-in-chief of al-Risalah newspaper wrote on Thursday in exasperation over the lack of PA response.

On May 28, Israeli soldiers raided the Ramallah offices of the PA-affiliated al-Ayyam newspaper, telling managers that Israel would not allow them to distribute the Hamas-affiliated Falastin, Al-Risalah, and Al-Istiqlal newspapers in the West Bank.

The Israeli raid undermined an inter-Palestinian deal that aimed to ensure freedom of press by facilitating the sale of Gaza newspapers in the West Bank and vice-versa.

Political analyst Wisam Afifa criticized the Palestinian national consensus government for its unwillingness to stand up to Israel's attack on Palestinian free speech.

"We consider that by remaining silent, the government actually accepts the Israeli decision to ban the printing of Gaza newspapers," he told Ma'an.

He highlighted that managers of the Gaza newspapers had contacted the Palestinian government spokesperson Eyhab Bseso over the issue, but nothing had been done.

"So far, there has been no comment on the prohibition, and we expect a serious and real response to these violations, especially from President Abbas," added Afifa.

Similarly, the editor-in-chief of al-Istiqlal newspaper criticized the Palestinian Authority and the national consensus government for not taking any action against Israel's decision to ban Gaza newspapers in the West Bank.

Tawfiq al-Sayyid Salim has said that he views the Israeli decision to ban Gaza newspapers as a humiliation to President Abbas himself, belittling his authority.

In December, the Foreign Press Association accused the Israeli army of "deliberately targeting" journalists after soldiers fired rubber bullets and threw stun grenades at photojournalists clearly identified as press.

The Tel Aviv-based group, which represents journalists of all foreign media, said troops had directly targeted a group of photographers covering clashes at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

A 2013 report by Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms counted 151 violations of Palestinian freedom of speech by Israeli authorities, including incidents of "physical assault, detention, arrest, prevention from coverage, travel bans, interrogation, threat, raiding, closing and blocking, trial, and confiscation of equipment."

The report also mentioned 78 violations by Palestinian authorities, primarily in the Gaza Strip, though these numbers are believed to be improving particularly since the the agreement to form a national unity government was made at the end of April.
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