Beirut, January 16, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the detention and alleged assault of Louay al-Ghoul, the executive director of the Gaza branch of the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, a journalists' union.
Al-Ghoul was arrested in Gaza City on January 5, was detained twice, and was released on January 7. He told CPJ that he was beaten by security forces during his detention.
"Hamas and Fatah should stop settling their political grievances through the detention and abuse of journalists," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour, from Washington, D.C. "All sides in Gaza should ensure that journalists can work freely and safely no matter what outlet they work for."
On January 5, the Hamas Internal Security Force raided al-Ghoul's house in Gaza and, failing to find him, served al-Ghoul's wife with a summons for her husband to appear at their headquarters on January 6, without giving a reason, according to news reports, the regional press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, and the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS).
Al-Ghoul told CPJ that he presented himself to security forces on January 5 and was then interrogated about the nature of his work and assaulted.
After being taken to an interrogation room, officers "looked at the statement by the PJS [condemning al-Ghoul's detention] and four officers beat me with sticks and other things while my head was covered with a bag," he told CPJ. "They stopped and interrogated me again and requested that a member of my family bring an iPad so that I could open my Facebook account. Then they put the bag back on my head and resumed the beating." Al-Ghoul told CPJ that a family member did not bring an iPad to the authorities.
Al-Ghoul was released from custody after signing a pledge to return the next day, January 6, according to Skeyes.
When he returned, al-Ghoul told Skeyes, an investigator "accused me of lying when I told him I had been beaten and said I had done it myself. He sent me back to the cell where I was held until I was released in the morning of January 7."
According to a statement by the syndicate, al-Ghoul was forced to sign a document promising that he would not publish any news about the Fatah-backed Palestine TV broadcaster or the Fatah party.
Salama Maroof, head of Hamas' media office in Gaza, did not reply to CPJ's emailed request for comment.
Tensions between the Fatah party, which controls the Palestinian Authority, and the rival Hamas movement have been rising in recent weeks after Fatah accused Hamas in late December 2018 of carrying out widespread arrests of Fatah members and sympathizers in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, in order to thwart the 54th anniversary commemoration of Fatah's first attacks on Israel, according to news reports.
In December 2018, CPJ reported that Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Preventive Security forces arrested two Palestinian journalists in the West Bank. In early January 2019, CPJ reported that unknown assailants ransacked the Fatah-funded Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Gaza.