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Palestinian Journalists' Union expresses worry over journalist detained in Gaza

Sept. 2, 2016 4:56 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 14, 2016 1:32 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Journalists' Union Friday expressed its worry over journalist Muhammad Othman who was arrested by Hamas security officials in the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday.

According to a statement released by the group, Othman had previously been assaulted and threatened by security forces, indicating that his detention on Thursday was a result of his investigative journalism work in the coastal enclave.

The statement went on to condemn actions that harm the freedom of the press, particularly acts that target Palestinian journalists in Gaza.

The union also demanded that the Hamas movement, its politboro, and human rights and media institutions in the Gaza Strip intervene to ensure Othman’s release.

Othman was detained by Hamas security forces just one day after a report was released by international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) documenting violations against journalists and activists by Palestinian authorities both in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying that both governments have been accused of inflicting “harassment, intimidation, and physical abuse” on detainees.

The group documented five cases across the occupied territory in which two journalists, an activist, and two rap musicians were detained for criticizing authorities. According to the statement, four of those detained were physically abused or tortured while in custody.

Within the same week, the Palestinian press freedoms watchdog MADA reported that Israeli violations against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory had continued to rise at a rapid pace over the first half of 2016.

The increase came even after the group reported an “unprecedented” increase in violations throughout 2015 -- “the highest ever to be monitored in Palestine” since the group started monitoring violations against media freedoms more than a decade ago.

In MADA General Director Moussa Rimawi said in the semi-annual report that while the total number of violations by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities declined from 224 in the first half of 2015 to 198 in the first half of this year -- a rate of 12 percent -- Israeli violations continued to climb, while Palestinian authorities committed 41 percent less violations during the same period.

A total of 133 violations committed by Israel were recorded, compared to 43 in the occupied West Bank and 22 in the blockaded Gaza Strip committed by Palestinian authorities.

Despite the fact that Palestinian violations were fewer and less severe than those committed by Israeli authorities, MADA noted that as a direct result of violations by Palestinian authorities, Palestinian journalists and media workers “avoid addressing several topics” and practiced self censorship.
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