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MADA demands investigation into attacks on journalists covering protest

(MADA/IFEX) - Ramallah, 17/03/2011 – Policemen and members of the internal security forces attacked journalists covering a youth sit-in on 15 March 2011 in the Alkatebah yard, Gaza Strip. Protestors were demanding an end to the current internal political divisions between the two ruling parties, Fatah and Hamas.

MADA's legal unit consultant, Karem Nashwan, took statements from the group of journalists who were attacked - "Al-Ayyam" newspaper columnist Akram Attallah, Sawt Alwatan radio correspondent Ahmad Hathat, Agence France Presse photographer Muhamad Albaba, Sawt Elsha'b radio presenter and correspondent Sameh Ramadan and Sawt Alwatan presenter Mahmud Abu Taha.

In his statement, Akram Attallah said that he went to the Alkatebah yard to cover the sit-in when he was approached by internal security personnel and told to leave the area. He informed them that he was a journalist and wanted to continue covering the protest, to which security personnel responded by beating him severely, leaving him with a broken hand and numerous bruises that required him to seek treatment at Al-Quds hospital.

Ahmad Hathat said that he was on his way to the Alkatebah yard at about 7:00 p.m. when he was stopped by a group of policemen and internal security forces and prevented from entering the yard. Upon informing them that he was a journalist, an officer began shoving him and threatened to arrest him if he didn't leave the area. "While I was going to cover the sit-in, I was attacked by an internal security member. He hit my camera which swung up and struck my hands and face, causing bruises; then he threatened to arrest me and confiscate my camera if I didn't leave the area immediately, so I left," said the journalist.

Sameh Ramadan said that he was covering events from the journalist's tent in the Alkatebah yard, when internal security forces began beating and cursing him. Witnesses tried to halt the attack and told the security officers that Ramadan was a journalist. They continued to beat him, however, and damaged his camera.

Journalist Mahmud Abu Taha was also beaten whilst attempting to cover events: "I was standing beside the journalist's tent when I witnessed the beating of a Russian TV cameraman. I tried to help him and intervened, so they then began beating me with batons and sticks despite being fully aware that I was a journalist."

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) strongly condemns these attacks and the obstruction of journalists' right to cover events. These actions stand in flagrant violation of freedom of expression. MADA demands the formation of an investigative committee to look into these attacks and violations, so that all responsible parties may be held accountable for their actions.
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