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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Al-Jazeera barred from the Mukhata

The 'Palestinian Authority' has barred Qatar's al-Jazeera from its seat of 'government,' the Mukhata on the grounds that the Arab network favors Hamas over Fatah.
The Palestinian Authority has decided to ban a number of journalists from entering the presidential Mukata compound in Ramallah.

The decision is aimed at punishing the journalists because of their criticism of the PA leadership or for reporting about the activities of Hamas leaders.

Al-Jazeera reporters and TV crews are among those who now appear on the PA's blacklist. They have been denied access to the Mukata for the past two weeks.

Other journalists working for Arab and Western media outlets have also been told that they are no longer welcome to visit the compound.

The Foreign Press Association protested "in the strongest possible terms" the ban on Al-Jazeera journalists and urged the authorities in Ramallah to immediately end this restriction.

"There can be no legitimate excuse for this unacceptable curtailment of press access to the office and activities of the [PA] president," the association said in a statement.
But wait because it gets even better. It seems that the straw that broke the camel's back had nothing to do with biased reporting.
The decision to ban Al-Jazeera came after the popular TV station failed to carry a live broadcast of a speech given by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in front of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah.

Instead, the station broadcast live from Damascus, where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was addressing a conference of radical groups.

Al-Jazeera was banned from covering the recent meeting between Abbas and the visiting Italian president in line with the new sanction.
Al-Jazeera has not reported about the ban because it has been threatened that doing so will only cause it more problems. And they're not the only outlet that's been banned.
Earlier this week, the largest Palestinian news agency, Ramattan, decided to suspend its work in the West Bank after the PA leadership also banned its reporters from entering the Mukata.

The agency also accused the PA security forces of raiding its Ramallah offices, arresting its workers and confiscating a mobile broadcast truck.

Another journalist who has been denied access to the Mukata is Nael Nakhleh, a resident of Al-Bireh who writes from newspapers in the Gulf. Nakhleh was arrested by the PA's General Intelligence for allegedly publishing reports that reflect negatively on the PA leaders.

The PA has, over the past few years, become less tolerant toward "unfriendly" journalists, especially Palestinian newsmen who report about financial corruption and abuse of human rights in PA-controlled areas.

Seven Palestinian reporters have been arrested by Abbas's security forces in the past few months for allegedly expressing sympathy with Hamas. Most were released after being warned against publishing material that reflects negatively on Abbas and the PA leadership.
I wonder if the reporter who wrote this story - JPost's Khaled Abu Toameh has been banned from the Mukhata as well. He doesn't say.

Freedom of the press, 'Palestinian' style. Heh.


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