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IFJ accuses Hamas of political interference after takeover of Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate office in Gaza

(IFJ/IFEX) - 12 October 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused the Hamas administration in Gaza of attempting to destabilize the leadership of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) after a group of journalists believed to be close to Hamas took over the union's office under the watchful eye of the police.

"This is a blatant interference in journalists' affairs, which threatens the unity and independence of media professionals in Gaza," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Hamas must protect our colleagues and ensure the union premises are returned to the legitimate PJS leadership forthwith."

The PJS, an IFJ affiliate, said that security forces escorted a group of Palestinian journalists to the union's offices, where they seized phones and ordered the staff out, claiming to be the new executive body of the syndicate. These journalists are said to have received support from the Journalists' Block, an organisation of media workers affiliated to the Hamas movement. However, the group has denied any involvement in the take-over but confirmed their support for the action against the PJS leadership.

In a statement, the PJS accused Hamas of pursuing a "policy of liquidating all media organisations by shutting down dozens of organisations, banning the distribution of the main newspapers in Gaza and prosecuting journalists."

The IFJ backed the PJS demands for Hamas to respect the independence of media and leave journalists to determine their affairs. The two organisations voiced their grave concern of the escalation of the Hamas campaign against independent media in Gaza just as the PJS was involved in the process of dialogue and consultation prior to holding their next Congress.

"Hamas authorities are responsible for protecting journalists' physical safety and property," added Boumelha. "The seeming support of the security forces in the attack on our union's office is an alarming failure to uphold law and order in Gaza."

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