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RSF calls for closed media outlets to be allowed to resume operating amid peace moves between Hamas and Fatah

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 10 June 2008 RSF press release:

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Call for closed news media to be allowed to resume operating amid peace moves between Hamas and Fatah

Welcoming recent statements by the leaders of the two main Palestinian parties that have raised hopes of an end to the conflict between them, Reporters Without Borders called today for the news media that have been closed since the start of the clashes to be allowed to resume operating.

"No fewer that 17 news media have been forced to stop working since June 2007, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority withdrew to the West Bank," the press freedom organisation said. "Many journalists have been harassed during this period for working for a news outlet affiliated to the opposing party. The use of the news media in this political combat has made their employees more vulnerable throughout the Palestinian Territories."

Reporters Without Borders added: "The fratricidal struggle between Fatah and Hamas that erupted nearly a year ago has had a dramatic impact on press freedom. Palestinian journalists have been arrested arbitrarily and in some cases held for weeks. All the Palestinian media must now be allowed to resume operating with complete freedom."

In a speech broadcast on 4 June, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for dialogue with Ismael Haniyeh, the ousted prime minister and head of the Islamist party Fatah. Haniyeh agreed the next day in Gaza and called for an end to the media smear campaigns. The pro-Hamas media immediately stopped referring to the Palestinian Authority's security forces as "Abbas's gangs" while the pro-Fatah media stopped referring to the Executive Force in the Gaza Strip as a "Hamas militia."

The headquarters of the state-owned Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) in the Gaza Strip were closed down after the Hamas takeover and its employees were forced to stop working. Similarly, the West Bank bureaux of the Hamas TV station Al-Aqsa were also forced to close. The Abbas-controlled PBC continues to broadcast from studios in the West Bank.

Both the Palestinian Authority's security forces and the Hamas Executive Force were included in the Reporters Without Borders list of "Predators of Press Freedom" when the annual update was issued in May.

For further information on the restrictions on various media outlets resulting from Fatah-Hamas clashes, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91650
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/85185

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