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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fatah-Loyal Media Taking Hamas to Task

Somehow, I don't think that this situation will last long.

The 'Palestinian' media remains dominated by Fatah, and as a result it has been highly critical of the Hamas regime.

It goes without saying that this kind of 'friction' between the government and the media is rare in the Arab world.

A cartoon in the Al Ayyam daily lampooned Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who told a rally Palestinians would rather live on bread with olives, hyssop and salt than bow to Western demands. The cartoon showed a Palestinian with an empty shopping basket standing before bank cash machines labeled olives, salt and hyssop. He called his wife and, waving his bank card, asked what she wanted for dinner.

Bassem Abu Somayeh, head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corp., wrote in a recent newspaper commentary that the Hamas government must step down.

And on the private Hurriyeh radio station, commentator Muafaq Mattar suggested sarcastically that Hamas officials who headed to Iran to plead for money bring back Iranian caviar.

"The Palestinian media is clearly biased against Hamas," complained Mahmoud Ramahi of Hamas, secretary-general of the Palestinian parliament. "What they are doing is not monitoring or criticizing. What they are doing is inciting against Hamas, in the interest of Fatah."

Pro-Fatah journalists say they are giving equal treatment to all politicians and that Hamas is simply frustrated because it cannot control the media.

"It's only because they (Hamas) can't impose their agenda on us, they say we are inciting," said Mohammed al-Dawoudi, a senior official in the Broadcasting Corp., which runs the Voice of Palestine radio, Palestine TV and the official Wafa news agency.

For now, Fatah and its moderate leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, seem to have the upper hand _ in part because Abbas took control of the Broadcasting Corp. by decree after the election.

The three main Palestinian dailies _ Al Ayyam, Al Quds and Al Hayat Al Jedida _ are close to Fatah. Al Ayyam and Al Quds are privately owned. Al Hayat Al Jedida gets government funding; Hamas could try to slash its budget.

The two most popular private radio stations in Gaza, Hurriyeh and Radio Shabab, are sympathetic to Fatah. Hamas' Al Aqsa radio station has a smaller audience.

"The Palestinian media is dominated by Fatah and the main writers are either Fatah or leftists, so it is natural to see the media opposing Hamas," said Nashat al-Aqtash, a communications professor at Bir Zeit University. "The Palestinian media is now launching a campaign against the Hamas government."

Read it all.


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