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Offices of Ma'an News Agency and Alarabia TV shut down in Gaza

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) expresses its strong condemnation over the closing of the offices of Ma'an News Agency and Alarabia TV and the Lents Company for media production, as MADA considers this a unwarranted flagrant violation of freedom of expression. MADA demands respect for freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in Article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law, and calls for the reopening of the offices so that media employees are able to work freely.

According to the Ma'an News Agency, Attorney-General Counsel Ismail Jabr issued an order on Thursday 25 July 2013, for the temporary closure of the offices of Ma'an and Alarabia TV in Gaza. The reason for this was the alleged “fabricating of news, spreading rumors, and transmitting false information that is not truthful, which threatens civil peace and harms the Palestinian people and its resistance.”

The Ma'an News Agency had published a news story translated from an Israeli news site on the escape of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. Subsequently, a statement by the Hamas Information Office was published noting that "the Ministry of Information questioned the Ma'an Agency office director in Gaza regarding the false news published by the agency about the escape of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Egypt to the Gaza Strip and their stay in a hotel in Gaza, referenced to an anonymous Israeli source”.

The same office issued a statement early on 25 July accusing some local and Arab media of publishing false, fabricated, and distorted news and reports, and suggesting that this is a campaign involving some Egyptian media known for its loyalty and relationship with the Israeli occupation. In particular the statement referred to the Ma'an News Agency and Alarabia TV, which were described as "intentionally avoiding integrity, credibility and setting aside their professional commitment to journalism ethics”.

The closure of Lents Company stems from its work relationship with the Israeli news channel 124NEWS, according to an earlier decision by the Hamas government which prohibits professional relations with Israeli media. MADA reaffirms the need to respect freedom of expression in Palestine, and to enable journalists and media outlets to perform their professional duty freely, without any harassment and obstruction.

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