Journalists held, harassed in West Bank, Gaza

New York, December 16, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists urges the West Bank-based Palestinian Authorities to release a journalist detained since Monday and the Hamas-led government in Gaza to end harassment of journalists.

Mohamed Eshtewi, Al-Aqsa television bureau chief in the West Bank, was arrested on Monday near a supermarket in the city of Tulkarem following two days of intermittent police interrogation, his wife and brother told CPJ.

“Over the past years, he has been arrested nearly 40 times,” the journalist’s brother, Wessam Eshtewi, told CPJ. “Each time, we managed to visit him while he was under arrest and to prompt his release. But unfortunately this time, we are kept in the dark about his detention and are increasingly worried about his health, especially in light of his having heart problems.” 
The recurring harassment is partisan retaliation for Eshtewi’s work at the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa, said one local journalist who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. 
Hamas, meanwhile, is continuing its longstanding practice of harassing journalists it perceives to be biased in favor of Fatah, according to news accounts. The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) reported this week that Hamas security agents prevented photojournalists Samer Labad and Amer Labad from covering the anniversary of the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza. The police took their identity cards and interrogated them, MADA said.
“We urge President Mahmoud Abbas to order the release of our colleague Mohamed Eshtewi and put an end to this politically motivated police harassment,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. “We also urge the Hamas-led government in Gaza to halt partisan attacks on journalists.” 
Earlier today, Palestinian police released Musab Hussam Qataloni, correspondent for the Safa news Web site, who was taken from his home in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday. “No explanation for the four-day detention was given and no charge was filed against me,” Qataloni told CPJ. “They asked me questions about my political ideas and affiliation and journalistic work. I reiterated what I told the police last year when they detained me for 78 days, and that is that I am not committed to any political party and abide by the rules of journalism.”