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Two "Al-Hayat Al-Jadida" journalists held by Hamas

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of two journalists employed by the pro-Fatah newspaper "Al-Hayat Al-Jadida" who are being held by Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip. One of them, Omar Al-Ghul, was arrested on 14 December 2007. The other, Munir Abu Rizq, the Gaza bureau chief, was arrested on 15 January 2008.

"For the past six months, there has been a progressive muzzling of the media in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip," the press freedom organisation said. "Journalists critical of the Islamist party are being hounded. 'Al-Hayat Al-Jadida''s employees should not be used as scapegoats in the struggle for power between the two parties."

On being arrested on 15 January, Rizq was immediately taken to Al-Mashtal, the former headquarters of the intelligence services. The previous day, his brother, Mou'in Abu Rizq, who also works for the newspaper, was questioned for two hours by Hamas security forces. It was after the interrogation of Mou'in Abu Rizq that "Al-Hayat Al-Jadida" decided to close its Gaza bureau in protest against the harassment of its staff.

Ghul, one of the newspaper's columnists and an adviser to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has been held at Al-Mashtal for 33 days. His computer and several work documents were seized when he was arrested on 14 December at his home in Tal al-Hawa, in western Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nunu told Reporters Without Borders the arrests of the two men were "not linked to their journalistic activity" but he gave no indication of what they are charged with.

"Al-Hayat Al-Jadida" journalist Hassan Duhan told Reporters Without Borders his two colleagues have not been allowed to receive visits from relatives or talk to a lawyer. He said there was no doubt in his mind that their arrests were directly linked to the many reports published in the newspaper about acts of violence in Gaza by the Executive Force, the Hamas militia.

Created in 1995, "Al-Hayat Al-Jadida" has a circulation of about 3,000.

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