Hamas closes two media offices in Gaza

New York, July 26, 2013–The Hamas-led government in Gaza on Thursday shut down the local offices of Al-Arabiya and the Palestinian news agency Maan after accusing the outlets of publishing “false” news, according to news reports.

“Governments don’t have the right to shut down news outlets just because they dispute the accuracy of a story,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Hamas government should immediately allow Al-Arabiya and Maan to resume their operations.”

Ismail Jaber, the attorney general, said the outlets reported “fabricated news” that “threatened civil peace and damaged the Palestinian people and their resistance” to Israel, according to a statement published by the Hamas government’s media office today. Jaber described the shutdown as temporary, although the order did not specify when the offices will be allowed to resume operations.

Maan, headquartered in the West Bank, and Al-Arabiya, based in Saudi Arabia, often carry critical coverage of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Hamas statement cited an article that Maan published on Wednesday that said Muslim Brotherhood leaders had fled to Gaza to organize activities in support of ousted Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi. The article cited Israeli sources. In a report on Maan’s website, Nasser Lahham, the agency’s editor-in-chief, stood by the agency’s story.

The statement did not specify a particular Al-Arabiya article, but The New York Times said that Al-Arabiya had reported a similar story. Al-Arabiya said on Thursday that security forces had told its staff that anyone who tried to work in the office would be arrested.

Hamas authorities also shut down Lens, a local Palestinian media production company, on Thursday, according to news reports. The New York Times cited an anonymous Lens employee who said that the Hamas government had shut it down because it allegedly worked with i24, a new Israeli satellite station launched this month looking to emulate the success of global broadcasters like Al-Jazeera. Palestinian journalists in Gaza are barred from working with Israeli media.

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