Beirut, June 5, 2019--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the attorney general in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to drop his recommendation that a court ban distribution of the pro-Fatah daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.
In a May 26 letter to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the Gaza attorney general, Dia' al-Din al-Madhoun, said that he had recommended that a court ban distribution of the daily newspaper following a complaint filed by the Hamas-run Interior and Information Ministries in Gaza, according to news reports, the local press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media freedoms MADA, and the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate. The complaint alleged that the paper incited violence and stirred violence and sectarian strife, according to reports.
Tahseen al-Astal, the editor-in-chief of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, told CPJ that a Gaza court will rule on the recommendation on June 10. "The newspaper doesn't recognize the Hamas courts, so it will not attend the hearing or deal with the ruling in any form," al-Astal said, adding that it was the third time Hamas had banned his paper.
Hamas and Fatah govern separate parts of the Palestinian territories, after attempts to form a national unity government failed in 2007. Hamas rules over Gaza, and Fatah the West Bank.
"Hamas should stop using media outlets and journalists to settle its political disputes with Fatah," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras. "We call on the attorney general in Gaza to drop his recommendation that a court ban Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, and for authorities in Gaza to ensure that journalists and media outlets can work freely and safely regardless of their political affiliation."
Al-Astal was cited by the regional press freedom group Skeyes as saying that the attorney general's office recommendation, issued on May 27, accused the paper of publishing inflammatory articles.
The same statement said that a March 17 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editorial headlined with one of the most popular slogans chanted at the protests ("Out Hamas, Out") and critical of the Hamas response to the protests angered Hamas.
CPJ documented how at least three journalists were arrested while covering the protests.
Salameh Maarouf, head of the Hamas-run Government Media Office, was cited by the London-based news website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed in May as saying that Al-Hayat Al-Jadida was charged with violating Article 37 of the Press and Publications Law, which bans outlets from publishing articles that could harm national unity, incite to commit crimes, or stir hatred and sectarian strife.
"We monitored a number of articles and reports recently published by the newspaper that violate professional standards and reached out to the newspaper several times to solve this issue, but they didn't reply to us, so we decided to file a complaint against them. The public attorney recommended that the distribution of the newspaper was banned," Maarouf said to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
Neither Maarouf nor the Interior Ministry immediately replied to CPJ's emailed requests for comment.
The Hamas authorities in Gaza banned the distribution of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and two other pro-Fatah newspapers in the Gaza Strip in July 2010, CPJ reported at the time.