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Journalist arrested, held overnight by authorities as media workers increasingly at centre of dispute between Fatah and Hamas

(RSF/IFEX) - Journalists are being used to an unprecedented degree by the main political factions in the Palestinian Territories and around 10 have been arrested since the start of the year 2008. The media are at the centre of the dispute between the Islamist party Hamas, controlling the Gaza Strip and President Mahmoud Abbas' party, Fatah, in the West Bank.

"Relations between the press and the two rival ruling parties are very tense throughout the Palestinian Territories," Reporters Without Borders said. "Both journalists affiliated to one or the other of the parties and those who claim to be independent are being targeted in the duel between Fatah and Hamas leaders, who often claim to be defending press freedom when settling political scores. Political leaders and media representatives must get together to seek a way to defuse the tension."

Various journalists associations affiliated to Fatah or Hamas have spoken out in recent days about press freedom violations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Spokespersons for both parties have also issued statement blaming their political adversaries for the violations.

In the meantime, journalists are paralysed by threats and acts of intimidation by politicians. In the latest example, Amer Nawaf of the Ramattan news agency was arrested in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 12 March. The Palestinian Authority's security forces accused him of being a member of Hamas. He was freed the next day without being charged.

In the Gaza Strip, a court sentenced two journalists with the pro-Fatah daily "Al-Ayyam "on 6 February to six months in prison for libel.

To read the chapter on the Palestinian Territories in this year's annual report on press freedom worldwide, which Reporters Without Borders issued on 13 February, click here:

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