gaza protest.ap.jpg
A rally calling for reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank turned violent on Tuesday. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

Hamas forces attack journalists covering Gaza protest

March 16, 2011 1:58 PM ET

New York, March 16, 2011--Hamas security forces attacked local journalists covering a peaceful demonstration calling for Palestinian national unity on Tuesday. At least one journalist was taken to the hospital after being beaten, according to CPJ research. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the violence used against the press and calls on the authorities in Gaza to allow journalists to report freely. 

"We are alarmed by reports that Hamas has resorted to violence against the press," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Unfortunately, the authorities in Gaza are taking a page out of the playbook of other regimes in the region by harassing and beating journalists who are simply doing their job."

On Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinian activists gathered in Gaza to call for national unity and political reconciliation to end the division between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas took full control over Gaza in 2007, after winning parliamentary elections in 2006, while the West Bank remains under the control of the Palestinian Authority with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.

Fathi Darwich, the director of the independent radio station Sawt al-Watan, based in Gaza, told CPJ that two of his staff were beaten while covering the demonstration, Ahmed Hethat, a correspondent and Mahmoud Abu Taha, a presenter. "There were numerous other journalists attacked during the demonstration," Darwich told CPJ, adding that Akram Atallah, who writes for the West Bank-based daily Al-Ayyam, was also severely beaten and had his left arm broken. Atallah was taken to the hospital.

Abu Taha said that men in plainclothes attacked him and other journalists covering the demonstration. "I was beaten with metal sticks and clubs and threatened with detention if I didn't leave the square," Abu Taha told CPJ. Security forces in plainclothes also beat Mohamed al-Baba, a photographer for Agence France-Presse, while he was covering the demonstration, al-Baba told CPJ. He was also told that officers threatened to detain him and confiscate his camera if he did not leave the scene.

Al-Baba also said multiple journalists were beaten but due to the chaos and the fact that that it was getting dark outside, he did could not estimate the number of journalists assaulted. The New York Times reported that three journalists were taken to the hospital. CPJ could not confirm that number.

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