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Hamas restricts foreign journalists' access to Gaza Strip

Please note that a correction to this alert was issued on 7 October 2011.

(RSF/IFEX) - 5 October 2011 - Reporters Without Borders is worried by the Hamas interior ministry's adoption of new rules for foreign journalists that will restrict their access to the Gaza Strip.

Under the new rules, adopted on 25 September, every foreign journalist wanting to visit the Gaza Strip will have to apply in advance to the interior ministry in Gaza, and processing the application could take several days.

The government said the new measures were needed for security and control purposes. Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni's murder by an armed group on 15 April has heightened concern about the safety of foreigners in the Gaza Strip.

Journalists submitting applications will have to include a photocopy of their passport and ID photos, and will have to name a "guarantor" in the Gaza Strip. They will also have to enter the territory via Gaza because, as deputy interior minister Kamel Abu Madhi announced, the Rafah and Erez crossings have been closed.

Members of the Foreign Press Association nonetheless voiced a degree of optimism after a meeting yesterday with the head of the Hamas press office, Hassan Abu Hashish. Some said the need for initial authorization and the waiting period could mean that journalists would be able to get accreditation valid for a year.

Reporters Without Borders believes the new rules will restrict journalists' freedom of movement and complicate covering the Gaza Strip even more. It therefore urges the authorities to rescind the decision and facilitate the international media's access to the Gaza Strip.

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