Palestinian police officers are seen in the northern Gaza Strip on May 3, 2020. Gaza authorities recently banned the Saudi broadcasters Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadat. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

Gaza authorities ban Saudi-funded broadcasters over ‘fake news’ report

New York, July 16, 2020 – Gaza authorities should immediately lift their bans on the Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath broadcasters and allow them to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, the Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas, banned the Saudi-funded news channels from working in Gaza, and banned local journalists from appearing on their broadcasts, according to news reports and reports from the local press groups the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and MADA.

The ban was issued in response to a July 12 news report published on both broadcaster’s websites, which operate as sister networks and often share reporting, alleging that a Hamas navy commander defected to Israel with internal Hamas documents.

In a statement, Hamas described the report as “fake news” and accused Al-Arabiya of disseminating lies from Israeli intelligence.

“By censoring news outlets and banning journalists from working for them, Hamas authorities in Gaza seem intent on leaving no room for views other than their own,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Hamas authorities in Gaza should immediately reverse the bans on Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath, and allow them to resume broadcasting.”

Adel al-Zanoun, the director of the Al-Arabiya office in the Gaza Strip, received a phone call from the Interior Ministry yesterday informing him that the Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath Gaza offices must be closed, that companies had been ordered to stop advertising with the channels, and that local journalists had been banned from appearing on the broadcasters, according to MADA.

Ziyad al-Halabi, director of the Al-Arabiya office in Jerusalem, told MADA that the outlet had reached out to Hamas leaders for comment on the alleged defection, but they refused to comment or to deny the report.

CPJ emailed and sent text messages to the Gaza Interior Ministry and the Hamas Information Office for comment, but did not receive any responses.