Palestinian journalists targeted by all sides

A picture taken on May 31, 2013 shows Palestinian journalist Ashraf Abu Shaweesh being given assistance after being injured by tear gas during clashes following a protest against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. The internal Palestinian conflict and the larger Arab-Israeli conflict are taking their toll on journalism in Palestine. (AFP file photo)
Updated 12 August 2017
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Palestinian journalists targeted by all sides

AMMAN: The internal Palestinian conflict and the larger Arab-Israeli conflict are taking their toll on journalism in Palestine.
Palestinian journalists and the public’s right to know seem to be the biggest victims in a campaign that has included arrests by both West Bank and Gaza security agencies, the blocking of websites, and the issuance of a presidential decree that criminalizes posts on social media and online content. Israeli troops have also raided Palestinian media outlets and confiscated equipment.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) on Wednesday condemned the arrest by Palestinian security services in the West Bank of five journalists: Ahmad Mohammed Halayka, Tareq Abu Zeyd, Quttaiba Saleh Qasem, Mamdouh Mahmoud Hamamreh and Amer Abdul Hakim Abu Arafeh.
Muntaser Hamdan, a member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), said what is happening to journalists is a premeditated campaign by both Hamas and Fatah.
“This unprecedented campaign is having a negative effect on all professional journalists and media outlets,” he told Arab News.
The only way to face up to “police-like repression” is unity among journalists and their close adherence to professional standards, Hamdan added.
The PJS on Thursday called on its members not to publish any news connected to Palestinian security apparatuses or the attorney general’s office.
The syndicate, which is closely aligned to the ruling Fatah party, said the attorney general’s office broke a promise not to use a controversial cybersecurity law for issues connected to freedom of expression.
Palestinian courts in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem used the recently signed law to justify extending the journalists’ detention.
Ammar Dweik, head of the government-appointed Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, called the law “one of the worst” since the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established in 1994.
The vaguely-worded law makes it a crime for any Palestinian to publish content that harms “national unity” or the “social fabric.” It is “a big setback for freedoms in the West Bank,” said Dweik.
Families of the five journalists, who work for media outlets close to Hamas, have announced a protest march on Saturday from Ramallah’s Manara Square to the presidential headquarters.
Hamas security forces in Gaza have also arrested journalists, including Fouad Jaradeh, a reporter with the official Palestine TV.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Hamas to release him.
“Fouad Jaradeh’s arrest illustrates the pressure that Palestinian journalists face from all sides,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program coordinator Sherif Mansour said.
“Hamas authorities should release Fouad Jaradeh immediately and should not deny Palestinians in the West Bank the right to receive news from Gaza.”
In July, the PA blocked 30 websites, including many owned or reflecting the views of Hamas and renegade Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan.
Journalists working for Arab and international media are also harassed by Israel’s army. The Jerusalem Post reported that troops on July 28 raided media offices in Ramallah, confiscating equipment and documents.
The Israeli newspaper quoted an army spokesman as saying the offices are “suspected of manufacturing and distributing material which incites terrorism.”
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Israeli troops raided the offices of Palmedia, a member of the Palestinian telecommunications group that provides broadcast services to media outlets such as Russia Today (RT), Al-Mayadeen, Al-Manar and Al-Quds News. According to the Palestinian Maan News Agency, nothing was confiscated from RT’s offices.


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.