Hamas, Palestinian Authority Target Journalists Ahead of Election
by Khaled Abu Toameh
August 23, 2016
Palestinian journalists are at the top of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas hit-list in the crackdown occurring alongside preparations for the Palestinian local and municipal elections, scheduled for October 8.
The crackdown is part of an ongoing campaign by the two rival parties to silence critics in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Neither Hamas nor the PA tolerates a free and independent media — especially on the eve of a crucial election that could have far-reaching political implications in the Palestinian arena.
A Hamas victory in the upcoming elections would be catastrophic for President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. Such an electoral outcome would be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence in their policies and performance.
Hamas, for its part, is investing a huge amount of resources in the election campaign, in hopes that the results would further boost its standing among Palestinians. Hamas fears that a defeat would undermine its power in the Gaza Strip and pave the way for its collapse.
As the election campaign heats up, it is clear that Hamas and the PA agree on one thing: intensifying their repressive measures against Palestinian journalists.
This media crackdown is essentially ignored by international human rights organizations. Why? One reason is that when Israel is not involved, assaults on freedom of the media and expression do not interest them.
Some Western journalists and human rights advocates also treat these cases as “internal Palestinian issues” that are of no relevance to international public opinion. A story about a Palestinian journalist who is arrested by Israel is news. A Palestinian journalist incarcerated or threatened by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas is not.
Take, for example, the case of Ahmed Said, a journalist from the Gaza Strip. Last week, he was arrested by Hamas security forces, who also confiscated his personal computer. Said has a radio show on the Sawt Al Sha’ab (Voice of the People) radio station, where Palestinians call in to voice their grievances and talk openly about the problems they are facing under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip.
Before he was arrested, Said had phoned the spokesman of the Hamas police force, Ayman Al Batnihi, to discuss the recent rise in cases of homicide in the Gaza Strip. According to the journalist, the furious spokesman threatened him: “You are causing us a lot of problems and inciting people. I know how to deal with people. You need to be hanged.”