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Hamas closes Gaza media offices in crackdown

August 12, 2013

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Hamas, led by Khaled Meshaal (left), has been accused of interfering in internal Egyptian affairs [AFP/Getty Images]

Hamas, led by Khaled Meshaal (left), has been accused of interfering in internal Egyptian affairs [AFP/Getty Images]

Protesting what they called Hamas’ “ongoing assault on journalists”, Palestinian journalists held a sit-in near Ramallah last week to protest against the Hamas government’s recent closure of two media offices in Gaza.

A week earlier, Hamas authorities in Gaza shut down two media offices used by Al Arabiya satellite channel and Maan News Agency, which they accused of “disseminating false news and publishing fabricated reports” about Hamas and its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

On July 25, police officers arrived at the two media offices in Al-Rimal neighbourhood, west of Gaza City, and ordered their workers to leave immediately, saying they had an order issued by the attorney general to “temporarily” close the offices and seize their contents.

“Police detectives came to our office showing us an order issued by the attorney general to temporarily close our office, but they refused to give us a copy of the order,” said Al Arabiya’s Gaza office director, Islam Abd al-Kareem.

Hamas government spokesman Ehab el-Ghussein said the government had previously “warned against going too far in fabricating news, spreading rumours, and publishing entirely baseless reports about the government, which served to disseminate hatred and incitement against the Palestinian people in Gaza”.

But, he added, “the two media offices ignored the government’s calls and kept on with their unethical and unprofessional behaviour and policies, as they deliberately tried to implicate the government as interfering in Egypt’s ongoing internal conflict”.

Hamas, which has been in control in Gaza since June 2007 and is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been repeatedly accused of interfering in internal Egyptian affairs.

Al Jazeera recently reported that deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has been arrested on a number of charges, the most significant of which is his alleged conspiracy with Hamas to carry out “anti-state acts” including attacks on police stations, soldiers and prisons.

Ghussein emphasised that the government’s policy is to not interfere in other states’ internal affairs. The media outlets, according to Ghussein, “falsely and deliberately” portrayed the Hamas government as interfering in Egypt, thereby provoking resentment against it.

‘Crackdown on journalists’

Maan’s editor-in-chief Nasser Al-Lahham criticised the decision to close the two offices, saying the move represents “a continuation of Hamas government’s crackdown on journalists and press freedoms”.

Since coming to power, Hamas has restricted press freedoms in the Gaza Strip. These include an ongoing ban on importing three local newspapers printed in the West Bank, and a ban on Palestinian journalists from working, giving interviews or cooperating with Israeli press and television. Hamas has repeatedly stated it will not lift the ban on the three allegedly pro-Fatah newspapers until the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah lifts a similar ban it has enforced on pro-Hamas newspapers in the West Bank. Read more in Al Jazeera.

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