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Palestinian journalists union holds sit-in demanding Hamas release 2 reporters

July 13, 2017 5:10 P.M. (Updated: July 24, 2017 9:46 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate organized a sit-in in Ramallah city in the central occupied West Bank on Thursday to demand the immediate release of two Palestinian journalists detained by Gaza’s security forces.

The sit in, also organized in collaboration with the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), was held outside PBC’s headquarters in Ramallah, where Palestinian journalists demanded the release of Fouad Jarada and Amr Balousha.

Jarada was detained more than a month ago by Hamas security forces, while Balousha was detained 12 days ago, for allegedly “collaborating with Ramallah” and misusing technology, in a continuation of retaliatory acts between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, the de facto leading party in Gaza, which has affected journalists as both groups have sought to tighten restrictions on press freedoms.

PBC Public Supervisor Ahmad Assaf stressed during the sit-in his rejection of Hamas’ violation of journalistic freedoms granted by Palestinian law, and noted that Jarada had “always presented the truth” and that he had “almost lost his life more than once covering the wars in the Gaza Strip.”

The Journalists Syndicate expressed its deep concern over “unjustified procedures” enforced by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and added that the syndicate, along with the International Federation of Journalists, has been working to exert pressure on the Hamas movement to release the two journalists.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada), documented a total of 48 violations by authorities in the Gaza Strip against media freedoms in its 2016 annual report, which highlighted incidents of security forces inflicting “certain types of torture” against Palestinian journalists during their detentions.

Mada also reported that Palestinian authorities in both Gaza and the West Bank were “prosecuting journalists in relation to their publications on social media sites.”

Political divisions between Fatah and Hamas have been cited as a major factor behind violations of press freedoms since conflict broke out between the two groups in 2007.

The PA has also been the target of fierce condemnation in recent weeks, after the PA decided to block some 29 news sites, all allegedly affiliated to either Hamas or PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ political rival Muhammad Dahlan, which “resulted in a significant increase in Palestinian violations to unprecedented levels in terms of numbers and gravity,” Mada pointed out at the earlier this month following the PA’s detention of Palestinian journalist Jihad Barakat.

Mada said that the surge in violations of press freedoms coincided with the sudden ratification of a new cyber crimes law on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr last month, which came “without engaging the Palestinian public or even presenting the draft to civil society organizations.

Mada demanded that Palestinian authorities immediately release all detained journalists in both the West Bank and Gaza, and called on the PA to freeze the cyber crimes law and put it up for public debate.
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