Beirut, October 4, 2019 -- Hamas security forces should immediately release journalist Hani al-Agha and drop any charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On September 25, al-Agha, a reporter for the pro-Fatah broadcaster Sawt al-Shabab Radio, responded to a summons by traveling to the headquarters of the Hamas-affiliated Internal Security Forces, west of Gaza City; once there, security forces arrested him, according to news reports and a report by the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, a regional press freedom group.
No charges have been announced against him, according to those reports. The Internal Security Forces have not allowed al-Agha’s family or a lawyer to visit him, according to Skeyes.
“We call on Hamas authorities in Gaza to immediately release Hani al-Agha and allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of reprisal,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Hamas’s arrest of a journalist simply because he works for an outlet that supports a rival political group and reports critically shows its disregard for press freedom.”
Louay al-Ghoul, the executive director of the Gaza branch of the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, told CPJ via messaging app that he believed al-Agha was detained because of his recent reporting on declining standards of living in the Gaza Strip, which al-Agha had blamed on poor governance by Hamas. Al-Ghoul said Hamas officials considered the report to constitute incitement.
Al-Agha is also a member of the Fatah Movement’s Journalists Office in Khan Younis, according to a statement posted on Facebook by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate.
Hamas-affiliated Internal Security Forces told CPJ via messaging app on October 5 that al-Agha "was arrested on charges of undermining revolutionary unity. He has been duly brought before the prosecutor and will be detained for 15 days." They did not elaborate on what led to his arrest.
Editor's note: The final paragraph has been updated with comment from the Hamas-affiliated Internal Security Forces.