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Islamist group threatens to behead women journalists not wearing veil on public TV

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders wrote to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh on 5 June 2007 asking him to identify and arrest the members of an armed Islamist group that threatened to kill women journalists and other female employees of the state-owned Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) who refuse to wear strict Islamic dress.

"Everything must be done to guarantee the safety of these professional women," the press freedom organisation said. "We take these threats all the more seriously as this radical group has claimed responsibility for many bombings in the Gaza Strip in recent months."

PBC staff received an email message on 1 June from a group called the Swords of Truth in which it condemned a "loss of morality" in the public broadcaster and criticised its women journalists for appearing on camera without the veil, wearing makeup and in western dress. "We will cut throats and veins if necessary to protect the nation's morals and ethics," the message said.

Of recent appearance in the Gaza Strip, the Swords of Truth has claimed responsibility for blowing up at least 30 Internet cafés since the end of last year. The group accuses them of providing young Palestinians with access to pornographic content. The bombings were preceded by warnings sent by email or fax.

Some of PBC's women journalists did not go to work after receiving the threatening message and gathered outside the presidential palace in Gaza City on 3 June to demand protection from the authorities. A larger demonstration, with about 60 participants, was organised the following day by the Palestinian journalists' union. Parliamentary speaker Ahmad Bahar attended in a show of condemnation for the threats.

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