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In Gaza, protesting and reporting on power shortages can get you arrested

A Palestinian man sells falafel in a makeshift shop lit with a lamp powered by a battery during a power cut in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip January 11, 2017
A Palestinian man sells falafel in a makeshift shop lit with a lamp powered by a battery during a power cut in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip January 11, 2017

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

This statement was originally published on madacenter.org on 15 January 2017.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) condemns recent arrests and attacks at the hands of Gaza's internal security forces against protesters. On 12 January 2017, both civilians and journalists were harmed during a peaceful demonstration demanding the betterment of electricity services in the Strip. MADA considers the attacks a grave encroachment on media freedoms and freedom of expression, both guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law and in international human rights law.

Protesters were arrested and beaten, a spokesman of Fatah movement in Gaza, Fayez Abu Eita, was detained for a few hours, and three journalists were targeted while covering the demonstration. Two of the journalists were physically attacked, AFP photographer Mohammad Abdulrazaq Al baba, and Associated Press reporter Fares Akram Alghoul. Two hours prior to the demonstration, the internal security services summoned freelance journalist Salah Abdallah Abu Salah for interrogation. He was reportedly abused and detained for hours regarding his coverage of the dismal conditions of the electricity sector in Gaza.

Mohammad Al Baba reported to MADA: "After I finished covering the demonstration I was stopped by police members who tried to confiscate my camera. Although I informed them that I am a journalist performing my job, they insisted and continued to forcefully confiscate my camera, when they failed to pull it out of my hands, one of them hit me on my face above my left eyebrow using a cudgel. I started bleeding, they took my camera and I was transferred to Kamal Odwan Hospital, they stitched my injury and transferred me to the Indonesian Hospital to receive medical treatment and do some medical tests and x-rays."

In his report to MADA, Fares Alghoul said: "They confiscated my camera and cellphone in addition to other equipment under the threat of using weapons but I wasn't exposed to any physical harm."

Journalist Saleh Abu Salah said: "I was detained and interrogated at the headquarters of the internal security in Gaza Strip/ Khanyounis, for four hours regarding a report I worked on discussing deficiencies and frequent interruption in the electricity provided to citizens in Gaza, I was detained for two hours blindfolded in a cell before the interrogation process took place."

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) denounces these attacks against journalists as an attempt to prevent them from performing their professional tasks. Such attacks rob Palestinian citizens of their right to freedom of expression and their right to peaceably assemble in protest. MADA calls on official bodies in Gaza to put an end to all such attacks, to immediately release detainees arrested during demonstrations protesting the electricity crisis, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

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