IFJ Accuses Hamas over Shutdown of Journalists’ Union Office in Gaza

IFJ President Jim Boumelha

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the action of  Hamas and their Internal Security department which closed down the office of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) in Gaza, accusing them of ‘inexcusable intrusion” in the internal affairs of Palestinian journalists.

“The action by the Hamas government is a violation of journalists’ rights and a slap in the face of Palestinians who are courageously fighting for their rights and the independence of journalism in appalling conditions,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, who led an IFJ delegation to Palestine last month.

“We join our affiliate the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate in their strong protest and we support their demand for an investigation into this action.”

Hamas shut the journalist union office in the Gaza Strip

The Ma’an news agency website reported that Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip closed the headquarters of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate without explanation Tuesday.

The forces arrived in civilian clothes and told them that the Ministry of the Interior had issued a decision to close the union, Ma’an is reporting.

The report says that the union’s West Bank Ramallah office condemned the move and is investigating. In a statement, it said that “this crime comes as the syndicate organized workshops to unite journalists.”

“Hamas leaders and security forces carry full responsibility for the lives of journalists in Gaza,” the journalist union statement said.

It demanded that the Hamas “reverse the decision and apologize to journalists” and the union leadership.

Union biased, Fatah-aligned – Hamas claims

Agence France Press reports a union official as saying that “Hamas internal security forces raided the headquarters today, and one of the officers informed the members of the board who were there that it would be closed until further notice.”

The union is dominated by the secular Fatah movement, which Hamas drove out of Gaza when it seized power in June 2007.

The Palestinian union held elections almost a year ago, in which all the main Palestinian factions took part except for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

A New Statesman report notes that the union, while dominatd by the secularist Fatah, was concerned the closure of its Gaza offices comes just as it had begun to train local journalists to work towards preventing a split in the syndicate.

Track record of attacks on trade unions by Hamas

Hamas has a long history of attacking trade union offices in Gaza.

The International Trade Union Confederation has in the past protested violent acts against trade unions and their officials by Hamas.

In an interview in 2007 with a Palestinian General Federation of Trade Union (PGFTU) official the ITUC highlighted attempts to assassinate union leaders.

Earlier the ITUC leadership  condemned the ” vicious and cowardly ” murder attempt on the PGFTU leadership.

IFJ responds: Hamas intolerant attacking Palestinian journalists

The International Federation of Journalist statement says the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS) is in the process of strengthening its work.

This includes organising workshops for journalists to adopt a modern constitution with the aim of uniting journalists across Palestine who are currently divided both by Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement and the political divisions between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestine Authority in the West Bank.

“It is impossible not to conclude that Hamas authorities are targeting journalists who wish to promote solidarity and unity within the Palestinian community,” said IFJ President Boumelha.

“It is another example of Hamas intolerance in the Gaza strip which has seen other actions to restrict media freedoms, including the closure of several media and detentions of tens of journalists.”

Hamas stops Gaza journalists joining in meeting with International Federation of Journalists

Last month, Hamas government stopped the Gaza-based University of Al Azhar from operating a video link organised by the PJS for its members in Gaza to join their colleagues at a meeting in Ramallah with the IFJ delegation visiting Palestine after its members had been denied permission to enter Gaza by Israel.

The IFJ says that Hamas government must take action to protect journalists including the members of the PJS secretariat in Gaza.

“Immediate action should be taken to correct this inexcusable intrusion in the affairs of journalists by allowing the PJS office to reopen,” said Boumelha.

“At this time of increased tensions there should be more protection for journalists and an end to all forms of harassment.”

Some related items on TULIP website: