Palestinian journalists protest Hamas bid to arrest Gaza reporter
The arrest of AFP reporter Sakher Abu El Oun was averted Saturday; El Oun heads Gaza journalists' union and is harsh critic of Hamas.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in rally Sunday in front of the Journalist's Union in Gaza City to protest an attempt by Gaza's Hamas rulers to arrest a colleague.
Late Saturday, Hamas militiamen tried to arrest Agence France Press reporter Sakher Abu El Oun, but left the scene at the urging of Hamas political leaders after a group of reporters Abu El Oun alerted formed a human chain around his home and blocked them from entering.
The arrest attempt came a day after Hamas beat a group of journalists covering a demonstration protesting the Islamic militant group's rule in the Gaza Strip. Abu El Oun, who heads the Gaza journalists' union, harshly criticized the Hamas crackdown.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after five days of fighting against the rival Fatah movement. While publicly proclaiming its commitment to a free press, the militant group appears to be growing intolerant of the media, with harassment of reporters growing increasingly common.
At Sunday's rally, journalists called on Hamas to respect freedom of the media. Some held signs, one reading: "The Israeli occupation failed to deter journalists and so will the [Hamas] executive force," a reference to the group's leading security apparatus.
"We refuse all forms of oppression designed to conceal the facts on the ground," said Shmas Odeh, a union leader.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents the foreign media in Israel and the Palestinian territories, condemned the Hamas harassment.
"This kind of dangerous infringement of professional journalists pursuing their duties is unacceptable," it wrote in a statement. "We urge the relevant authorities in Gaza to allow the proper functioning of the free press. There can be no excuse for any attempt to limit this freedom."