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Hamas internal forces in Gaza arrest several journalists

(MADA/IFEX) - 23 January 2013 - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) denounces the recent violations ranging from arrest to assault against journalists in the Gaza Strip during 21-22 January 2013.

Hamas Internal Security forces arrested four journalists in Gaza: Executive Director of the Journalists' Syndicate Munir Almunirawi, reporter for Sawt Alhureyya Juma' Abu Shumer, Chief Editor at the Palestinian Media Group Mustafa Al-Miqdad and freelancer Ashraf Abu Khsewan. In addition, reporters from the Aswar Press news site Hussein Abdel Jawad and Abdul Karim Fathi have been summoned for investigation on 23 January.

Director of Sawt Alhureyya, Amjad Arapeed told MADA that the internal security personnel arrested radio reporter Juma' Abu Shumer on the morning of 22 January. He added “a group of internal security officers came to the Abu Shumer's family house in Deir al-Balah, but Abu Shumer was not present as he lives in Gaza City, so they detained his family and his uncles to get him to show up at the headquarters for his family. Indeed, when he arrived at the security headquarters, they released his family and evacuated his house. He has not been charged so far and they did not explain the reason for his arrest."

Raed Almunirawi, journalist Munir Almunirawi's brother, told MADA of the internal security officers' visit to their family home in Deir al-Balah at 8 pm on 21 January to inform them of an arrest warrant against Munir and a search warrant for the house. Almunirawi added: "They searched the house well and they confiscated the laptop, Munir's mobile and his work-related papers, then they arrested him and we learned that he is in the internal security headquarters in Rafah."

The supervisor of the Aswar Press news site, Manal Khamis, has confirmed that journalists Mustafa Meqdad and Ashraf Abu Khsewan are being held by Hamas's internal security. She expressed her anxiety over the summoning of the two website reporters for investigation by security, stating: "Our reporters Abdel Gawad and Fathi were summoned to go to the internal security headquarters in Ansar at nine in the morning on Wednesday. This is not the first time that our staff underwent investigation because of their professional work, although we did not publish any abuse of Hamas or internal security. I'm surprised at the escalation against journalists and our site in light of the positive atmosphere of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas."

In another incident, photographer Ashraf Abu Amra was assaulted while covering the solidarity sit-in on 20 January. Abu Amra told MADA: "I received an invitation from the Popular Front political party to cover the solidarity sit-in in front of the French Consulate in Gaza in honour of one member of the Popular Front who is being held in French prisons. During the sit-in, one of the participants came and began to laugh in front of reporters, we told him to show respect or to stay away from journalists, but he began spitting at us and insulting us. Then, other participants interfered and dragged him away from us. After the sit-in, he approached me, beat me and insulted me in front of everyone." Abu Amra intends to submit a complaint to the police despite not knowing the name of the assailant.

MADA demands that the Hamas internal security immediately release the detained journalists. The center stresses the need to respect freedom of opinion and expression in the Gaza Strip, to refrain from prosecuting journalists, and to allow them to work freely and safely.

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