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Officials in Gaza prevent journalists' meeting from taking place

IFJ defies Hamas sabotage to launch ethical journalism campaign

(IFJ/IFEX) - 10 November 2009 - The International Federation Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the action of Hamas officials in Gaza who prevented a meeting of journalists aimed at building a dialogue on independent journalism with Palestinian colleagues in the West Bank.

The meeting was part of the launch of a discussion by the IFJ of the Federation's Ethical Journalism Initiative, a global campaign to improve standards in journalism, which has already been taken up in a number of Arab countries.

The IFJ had planned to link the Gaza meeting by video to the event in the West Bank where today's launch went ahead, but about 50 journalists from Gaza who turned up were left standing in the street when the venue abruptly cancelled the event on the instruction of the Hamas government.

"This is shocking political interference," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, who opened the meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah. "Hamas is trying to exercise political control over journalism - exactly the sort of threat that the ethical journalism campaign aims to eliminate."

Ironically, said White, his plans to join the Gaza meeting later in the day were thwarted by an Israeli decision not to allow him a permit to enter Gaza. He was turned away at the Eretz checkpoint when he travelled to meet with Gaza colleagues to discuss the situation.

The IFJ has rejected Hamas demands that the Federation seek their permission to hold meetings in Gaza. "Journalists should not be bullied," said White. "Journalists need to be able to meet freely, to speak freely and to exercise their rights without the blessing of any political faction."

White said that the IFJ remains concerned that some journalists are still held in prison by the Palestinian Authority and it has announced its support for a legal action again the Israeli police who have barred Palestinian photojournalists from reporting from the Al Aqsa mosque, an iconic centre of the Palestinian community in Jerusalem.

"All journalists under detention should be released and there must be an end to all forms of discrimination against media," he said.

According to the IFJ, Palestinian journalists face such a range of attacks from all sides that they need to create a new solidarity between them and end internal divisions that have cast a cloud over plans for the early re-launch of the Palestine Journalists Syndicate.

"Divisions among journalists are a gift to political factions who exploit media differences for their own ends," said White. "It's time for Palestinian journalists to speak with a single, clear and militant voice that they will not tolerate interference and to show determination to build an ethical culture of journalism for the benefit of all Palestinians."

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