Bethlehem TV station destroyed by suspected PLO gunmen

New York, April 18, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the destruction of the studios of a private Bethlehem television station critical of the Palestinian Authority. Masked gunmen believed to be from the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization stormed the offices of Al-Roa television on the night of March 23 and held the only employee there at gunpoint while other men destroyed electronic equipment and furniture, the employee told CPJ.

Al-Roa’s station director Hamdi Farraj said that last week, the governor of Bethlehem, Salah Tamari, told him that he suspected the attackers belonged to Fatah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was informed of the attack.

The station was forced off the air and will remain closed for some considerable time because of the scale of the damage, Farraj said.

“We are deeply concerned by this reprehensible attack which has silenced Al-Roa TV,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on President Mahmoud Abbas to fully investigate this attack and bring those responsible to account.”

In the two days before the attack the station had run bulletins criticizing the Palestinian Authority, including the interior minister.

Al-Roa says it has been closed by PA security forces at least 10 times since its founding in the early 1990s.