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Three journalists arrested, interrogated by intelligence services in West Bank

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of three Palestinian journalists by the Palestinian Authority's intelligence services in separate incidents in the West Bank. Two of the journalists, employed by news media affiliated to Hamas, the Islamist party that controls the Gaza Strip, have already been detained in the past.

"Palestinian journalists continue to work in a harrowing climate in which they can be arrested and questioned at any time," the press freedom organisation said. "The harassment to which they are exposed is directly linked to the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, the two ruling parties. Press freedom is violated throughout the Palestinian territories in order to settle political scores."

Osayd Amarneh of the Hamas-affiliated TV station Al-Aqsa was arrested by members of the intelligence services at midday on 8 May 2008 while covering a demonstration in Bethlehem (10 km south of Jerusalem) marking the 60th anniversary of the Naqba (the Arab word for "catastrophe," used by the Palestinians to refer to their defeat in the 1948 war).

"I was taken to the office of the Mukhabarat [intelligence service] where I was interrogated until midnight," the 23-year-old journalist told Reporters Without Borders. "I was released thanks to the intervention of the president of the Union of Journalists, Naim Al-Tubaisi."

Amarneh was questioned about his work for Al-Aqsa and how he transmitted his video to the TV station, which is based in Gaza. "They confiscated my camera after viewing the video I shot during the demonstrations and I still have not got it back," he added.

Amarneh and fellow Al-Aqsa journalist Alaa Al-Titi were arrested last November and held for 20 days after interviewing the relatives of a Hamas parliamentarian. A court in Hebron (30 km south of Jerusalem) acquitted them in April of "attacking national unity."

Mustafa Sabri, 41, the editor of "Palestine", a Hamas-affiliated daily newspaper, was arrested by the intelligence services on 8 May in the West Bank town of Kalkiliya and was interrogated several times before being released two days later. He was ordered to report again to the local Mukhabarat office on 12 May. He was previously detained by the Palestinian Authority security forces in Ramallah for four days in February.

Freelance photographer Mohammed Adba, 32, was also arrested by members of the intelligence services on 8 May in Kalkiliya and was questioned for several hours before being released.

In all, a total of eight journalists have been arrested in the West Bank and four have been arrested in the Gaza Strip since the start of the year.

The Executive Force, the armed wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank are both on the list of the world's 38 "Predators of Press Freedom" which Reporters Without Borders issued on 3 May.

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