GAZA CITY: Hamas’ decision to ban all journalists in the Gaza Strip from appearing on Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath news networks has been strongly criticized by media watchdogs and journalists.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on Hamas authorities this week to reverse their decision to ban all journalists in the Gaza Strip from working for the Saudi-owned networks – a decision that violates media pluralism, it said.
“Hamas must lift this ban and allow journalists who cooperate with Al-Arabiya to carry out their duties freely,” said Sabreen Al-Noui, Middle East official at Reporters Without Borders.
She added: “The political differences between Hamas and the Saudi authorities do not in any way justify the total ban on journalists working for the channel — or in any other media organization — regardless of their political position.”
Al-Arabiya reported last Sunday that 16 members of the Izz Al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, had been arrested by the Ministry of the Interior in Gaza, on charges of collaborating with Israel.
The news of the arrests was first published on the Amad website based in Cairo, but no action was taken against the outlet.
Hassan Asfour, editor-in-chief of website, said that Hamas had lost control in dealing with the “spy cell,” which was recently disclosed. He said Hamas was searching for an “imaginary enemy” rather than the real enemy.
Hamas is searching for an imaginary enemy rather than the real enemy.
Hassan Asfour, Journalist
Tahseen Al-Astal, of the Syndicate of Palestinian Journalists, described the decision to prevent channels from operating in Gaza and the campaign of arrests against journalists as “contradicting national morals and values.”
He said that press freedom was under threat in Gaza, and that all parties should put pressure on Hamas to stop its harassment of journalists and media institutions.
Al-Astal said that Hamas was committing a real “massacre” of freedom in Gaza, in contravention of human rights and the principles of freedom of opinion and expression stipulated in the Palestinian Basic Law and international laws.
Hamas’ Ministry of Interior denied the news of the arrests, and said that the broadcasts by Al-Arabiya TV confirmed “the channel’s practice of misleading and working to promote rumours and lies.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that Al-Arabiya, which broadcasts from the UAE, is leading a campaign of “misinformation and distortion” based on “lies and slanders” from the Israeli security services industry, aiming to “harm the resistance.”
Palestine ranks 137 (out of 180 countries) on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.