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Armed gunmen raid journalists' union offices, seize documents

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 18 June 2007 IFJ media release:

World Journalists Condemn Armed Raid on Offices of Palestinian Journalists' Union in Gaza

The International Federation of Journalists today renewed calls for urgent action to protect Palestinian journalists after an armed raid over the weekend on the Gaza offices of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate by militants linked to Hamas.

Gunmen entered the offices of the Syndicate, which is affiliated to the IFJ, on Saturday and seized documents and computers, according to a statement issued by union leaders yesterday.

"The targeting of Gaza's journalists only reinforces fears for the safety of media staff and underscores the threat to free reporting in the turmoil that is overwhelming the region," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

Earlier the IFJ welcomed the release on Saturday of Tawfiq abu Khousa, a leader of the Syndicate in Gaza who had been among people rounded up by Hamas gunmen following fierce fighting between them and Fatah gunmen supporting President Mahmoud Abbas.

"These actions place journalists in the mix of the conflict and amount to unacceptable intimidation," said White. "We need urgent actions by all sides in this dispute to guarantee the safety of journalists and to protect their right to report freely."

The IFJ said that Hamas should return the papers and equipment to the Syndicate and pledge to refrain from further interference in the Syndicate.

The IFJ's newly-elected President Jim Boumelha has also called for fresh action by Hamas leaders to free the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, a fellow member of the National Union of Journalists of Great Britain and Ireland.

"It's time for those who have influence in Gaza to make their presence felt and end the three-month ordeal of Alan Johnston," said Boumelha.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.

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