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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Flashback: When the New York Times admitted that Hamas harasses journalists

You will recall that just this past week, New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren termed 'nonsense' an accusation by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) that Hamas harasses journalists, despite the fact that her own deputy was signed on the FPA complaint. A little bit of digging in the Times' archives by a friend came up with this Steve Erlanager piece complaining about Hamas harassment of journalists. Of course, that happened before Hamas was really ensconced in power.
The next night, at about 10 p.m., Hamas police officers entered Sakher Abu El Oun’s courtyard, preparing to arrest him. Mr. Abu El Oun, a reporter for Agence France-Presse and head of the union here, telephoned a colleague.
“I called one journalist who sent out an SMS,” he said, referring to a text message, “and within minutes, about 70 journalists and some human rights activists came to my house and prevented them from taking me away. My kids were crying. It was a very ugly picture.”
The police told him, he said, “that they had instructions to arrest me, I had refused, and I would be responsible” for any consequences.
Hamas seems confused about how to quash Fatah protests and simultaneously deal with the news media. Trying to nurture a reputation for honesty and legal behavior since they conquered Gaza in bloody fighting in June, Hamas’s leaders promise journalists freedom of action while the police intimidate them.
One result is a kind of self-censorship, local journalists say, that goes beyond what they traditionally practiced under Fatah, which also tried to pressure, manipulate or own the Palestinian press.
Mr. Abu El Oun, 42, is a good case in point. The immediate crisis for him ended when a Hamas government spokesman, Taher el-Nounou, a former journalist, arrived at his house with a message from the former Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, telling the police to leave.
Later, speaking for the union, Mr. Abu El Oun talked about the broader problems journalists were facing. “We are asking for the freedom to cover the protests,” he said. “They can prevent the demonstrations, but not the right of journalists to cover them. We are under self-censorship because we don’t know what is allowed, what isn’t. There is no clear policy. All the journalists are worried, scared.”
He has since been asked by his employer not to speak to journalists.
And one more thing:
Similarly, Hamas at first said the prayer protests were fine if peaceful, but then decided to ban them, causing further clashes. As some protesters were beaten, some more journalists were beaten and arrested, too, before being released. One policeman told reporters, according to The Associated Press, “If a single shot is on TV, you know what will happen,” then drew a finger across his throat.

Read the whole thing. Sounds a lot like today, doesn't it? In fact, if anything it's worse - I doubt 70 journalists would respond to such an SMS today. So why does Jodi think otherwise?

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