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IFJ accuses Hamas over shutdown of journalists' union office in Gaza

(IFJ/IFEX) - 12 October 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the action of the Hamas Internal Security department which closed down the office of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) in Gaza, accusing them of "inexcusable intrusion" in the internal affairs of Palestinian journalists.

"The action by the Hamas government is a violation of journalists' rights and a slap in the face of Palestinians who are courageously fighting for their rights and the independence of journalism in appalling conditions," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, who led an IFJ delegation to Palestine last month. "We join our affiliate the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate in their strong protest and we support their demand for an investigation into this action."

The PJS is in the process of strengthening its work including organising workshops for journalists to adopt a modern constitution with the aim of uniting journalists across Palestine who are currently divided both by Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement and the political divisions between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestine Authority in the West Bank.

"It is impossible not to conclude that Hamas authorities are targeting journalists who wish to promote solidarity and unity within the Palestinian community," said Boumelha. "It is another example of Hamas intolerance in the Gaza strip which has seen other actions to restrict media freedoms, including the closure of several media and detentions of tens of journalists."

Last month, the Hamas government stopped the Gaza-based University of Al Azhar from operating a video link organised by the PJS for its members in Gaza to join their colleagues at a meeting in Ramallah with the IFJ delegation visiting Palestine after its members had been denied permission to enter Gaza by Israel.

The IFJ says that the Hamas government must take action to protect journalists including the members of the PJS secretariat in Gaza.

"Immediate action should be taken to correct this inexcusable intrusion in the affairs of journalists by allowing the PJS office to reopen," said Boumelha. "At this time of increased tensions there should be more protection for journalists and an end to all forms of harassment."

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