Threats against Palestinian Authority journalists have increased over the past several weeks, with some editors and reporters reducing coverage and in some cases quietly moving to safe houses.
Violence against Arab journalists in the PA territories is not new. A few months ago, gunmen broke into the offices of Gaza-based electronic magazine Donia al-Watan. On Sunday, the magazine’s journalists were threatened again, this time by a Hamas-affiliated group.
“Soon we will destroy your website,” said one threat by Hamas’ Anti-Terror Unit, reported the magazine. “We have warned you in the past about publishing lies on your trivial site. We will strike with an iron fist against anyone who defames our warriors." Other threats have come from Fatah-affiliated fighters as well.
Journalists have also said they were beaten by police officers in front of PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh’s office last month while trying to cover a meeting there.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) said earlier in the month that seven reporters associated with Fatah were targeted by Hamas terrorists. The journalists received email, phone and fax threats of injury and death, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.
However, threats are coming from both factions, said a reporter in Gaza City. “We have been receiving death threats almost every day over the past month,” he said. “The threats are coming from both Hamas and Fatah.”
Reporters have asked the PA security forces for protection in light of the threats, which they are taking very seriously. However, some reporters said they were also threatened by various branches of the PA security forces themselves, adding to the danger faced by the journalists.
A PA TV cameraman was beaten by PA security officers last week while he was covering the clashes between terrorists and PA police officers. The clashes caused damage to greenhouses in Morag, a former Jewish community uprooted from Gush Katif.
The reporters and cameramen were accused of “inciting” viewers and readers against the PA, said a journalist. “They apparently did not want the world to see that the gunmen had destroyed some of the greenhouses,” he said.
The PJS issued a sharp statement condemning the attack, calling for journalists to show their support of their injured cameraman colleague Bassam Abdullah. The group also demanded that the PA investigate the incident, urging the Palestinian Ministry of Information to "assume its responsibilities and to defend the freedom of the media.”
Meanwhile, senior Hamas official and PA parliament speaker Aziz Dwaik claimed the group was not behind the attacks. In a letter to Haniyeh, he claimed that “freedom of the media… is sacred to us.”