Hamas attacks Gaza news bureaus; Yemen ousts reporters

New York, March 19, 2011–Hamas security forces raided media bureaus, assaulted journalists, and confiscated journalistic materials in Gaza today, punctuating another day of anti-press attacks in the restive region. In Yemen, authorities expelled two Al-Jazeera correspondents, continuing a pattern of ousting international reporters. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns these attacks on journalists and the efforts of authorities to prevent the world from seeing and reading about crucial international affairs.

Following a demonstration in Gaza City, Hamas security personnel stormed the bureaus of Reuters, CNN, and the Japanese news channel NHK, attacking journalists, confiscating tapes, and destroying equipment, CNN and others reported. Security forces hit a Reuters employee with an iron bar, threatened to throw another out of a window, and smashed a television and computer keyboard, Crispian Balmer, the news organization’s bureau chief for Israel and Palestinian Territories, told CNN and The Associated Press. Security personnel also searched CNN’s offices for footage of today’s demonstration, CNN said, and confiscated an NHK tape, according to NHK Jerusalem bureau chief Disuke Iijima. 

“Today’s attack on media offices and working journalists in Gaza is a brazen attempt to censor the news,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Hamas must understand that violence against media, who are the eyes and ears of the people, will only erode its own legitimacy–both domestically and internationally.”

Following the raid, journalists held a sit-in to denounce the government’s treatment of media. This is the second attack on media in Gaza in less than a week by Hamas security personnel. On Tuesday, Hamas security forces attacked journalists as they were covering demonstrations. Multiple journalists were injured, and one was reportedly stabbed.

In Yemen early this morning, authorities expelled Al-Jazeera correspondents Ahmad Zeidan and Abdel Haq Sadah. The two journalists were dispatched to Yemen to help cover the country’s spreading social unrest and the government’s violent response. Both were covering events in the capital, Sana’a, as the channel’s permanent local reporters spread out to provincial cities to cover events there.

Al-Jazeera reported that the government did not notify its Sana’a bureau chief of the expulsion or provide justification for its actions. The expulsion comes after Al-Jazeera’s extensive coverage of events on Friday, the bloodiest day of the two-month-long uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year long rule. The violence left at least 44 civilians dead in Sana’a alone, among them Jamal al-Sharaabi, a photojournalist for the independent weekly Al-Masdar. A BBC cameraman was shot in the shoulder during the same assault, the news outlet said.

Earlier this week, Yemen expelled six other international journalists in an effort to limit coverage of the widespread revolt and the government’s response. Al-Jazeera also reported that in previous weeks it has received threats to its bureaus, its employees, and their families. Some equipment has also been confiscated.