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Authorities bar three West Bank dailies from circulating in Gaza Strip

(MADA/IFEX) - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) condemns the Gaza authorities' prevention of three daily newspapers - "Al-Hayat Aljadedeh", "Al-Ayyam" and "Al-Quds" - from being distributed in the Gaza Strip for a second day in a row, considering the actions against the papers to be a flagrant violation of freedom of opinion and expression.

The Israeli occupation authorities allowed the three daily newspapers to enter the Gaza Strip as of the evening of 7 July 2010, after having banned them from entering the territory since late 2008.

The chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and editorial director of "Al-Ayyam", Abdel Nasser Alnajar, emphasized his condemnation of the move to prevent the newspapers from entering the Gaza Strip, and demanded that the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza avoid involving the media in the political divisions between Fatah and Hamas.

Alnajar said, "We categorically refuse to force the newspapers' management to sign a document stating that they will not criticize Hamas and the situation in the Gaza Strip in order to allow them to enter Gaza. Hamas unofficially asked the newspapers' management to sign a document to this effect, and when we tried to contact Hamas officials they refused to talk or provide a statement. So far we have not received any official information from them."

Palestinian sources said that the authorities in Gaza are requiring the owners of the daily newspapers, which are published in the West Bank, to sign a pledge to refrain from harshly criticizing the Hamas government, and to allow the "Felesteen" and "Al-Risalah" newspapers to be printed and distributed in the West Bank, where they have been denied access since mid-June 2007.

The editor-in-chief of "Al-Hayat", Hafez Barghouti, said that on 8 July they did not send any copies of the newspaper to Gaza because Hamas had prevented the copies of the paper from entering the day before. Barghouti added, "We are still awaiting a response from Hamas. If it is positive, we will send copies to Gaza."

On the other hand, the "Al-Quds" distributor in the Gaza Strip, Shukri Shiblak, said that on 7 July members of the internal security apparatus of the government in Gaza did not allow distributors to receive the newspapers. As such, they asked for a formal decision from the Information Ministry which would allow the newspapers to enter Gaza. He added that they are waiting for Information Ministry approval.

MADA demands that the Hamas government allow the newspapers to enter the Gaza Strip without restrictions, and renews its demand for the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to allow all media and journalists to work freely and safely.

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