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IFJ condemns Hamas's continuing harassment of media in Gaza, attempt to arrest journalist union leader

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 26 August 2007 IFJ press release:

IFJ Condemns Hamas Harassment and Targeting of Journalists' Union Leadership in Gaza

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned an attempt yesterday by armed Hamas militia to arrest a journalists' union leader in Gaza. The attempt failed only because local reporters formed a human chain around his home in protest.

"The IFJ gives its full support to the journalists of Gaza in their fight against harassment of journalists and media by Hamas armed groups," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, today. "We demand that the authorities in Gaza ensure that journalists can do their job in full security. They must bring an end to this targeting of journalists and allow Palestinian media to function without any interference."

The IFJ reacted after a day of drama and protest involving the Palestine media community across Gaza and the West Bank following the failed attempt to arrest Palestine Journalists Syndicate Gaza branch leader Sakher Abu El Oun, who also works for the news agency Agence France Presse.

Hamas militiamen trying to enter his home were forced to withdraw when they were confronted by reporters who formed a human chain around the house, putting themselves at risk in order to protect Sakher Abu El Oun.

Subsequently demonstrations and sit-ins were held in several West Bank cities by Palestinian journalists. Journalists called on Hamas to respect freedom of the media and the right of journalists to report. The Palestine Journalists Syndicate is organising further demonstrations.

"We salute the determination of journalists to keep political hands off the controls of Palestinian journalism," said Boumelha. "All sides in the Palestinian political community must respect the right of journalists to report freely."

For further information, contact the IFJ, International Press Centre, Residence Palace, Block C, 155 Rue de la Loi, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium, tel: +322 235 2200 / 2207, fax: +322 235 2219, e-mail: [email protected], Internet: http://www.ifj.org/

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