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Palestinian territories29 May 2009

More journalists arrested as a result of tension between Palestinian factions

Reporters Without Borders condemns the renewed harassment of pro-Hamas journalists by the West Bank security services, in particular the arrests of Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Oussid Amarena and Filasteen bureau chief Mustapha Sabri in the past 11 days.

“Journalists are again paying the price of the political tension between the different Palestinian factions,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Palestinian Authority does not allow any view but its own to be voiced in the West Bank and does not hesitate to harass pro-Hamas journalists. The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip is no better.”

The press freedom organisation added: “These governments should allow the press to do its work. Palestinians have a right to diverse and independent news coverage. The media should not be the hostage of political factions.”

Amarena, 24, was arrested when he went to the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security service in Bethlehem on 18 May in response to a summons. He was interrogated by Preventive Security members, insulted several times and then placed in solitary confinement. Officials did not say what charges, if any, have been brought against him.

Amarena’s mother told Reporters Without Borders that he went on hunger strike for four days in protest against his arrest and the conditions in which he was being held. He has been arrested many times in the past by the Palestinian Authority’s security services in the West Bank.

Sabri, the West Bank bureau chief of the newspaper Filasteen, was arrested by Preventive Security in Ramallah on 21 April.

Reporters Without Borders urged the Palestinian Authority to stop the constant provocations and attacks on pro-Hamas journalists in a 25 March letter to the interior ministry condemning the harassment of journalist and writer Essam Abu Shawar by Preventive Security agents in Tulkarem.

Reporters Without Borders meanwhile hails the return of journalist Sakher Abu El Oun’s passport by the interior ministry that has been in charge in the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized power there in June 2007. Its confiscation on 21 March prevented him from attending a conference in Bahrain.

The Agence France-Presse bureau chief and president of the Union of Palestinian Journalists in the Gaza Strip, El Oun was summoned and questioned several times by the Hamas security services about his journalistic activities.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to the Gaza Strip interior ministry on 31 March to protest against the police harassment of El Oun and other intimidatory practices to which he had been subjected.

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