Text size

Maan, a major independent Palestinian news agency, declared an open-ended strike on Friday to protest the Palestinian government's arrest of an executive who allowed Hamas officials and activities to appear in agency reports.

The agency shut down all 20 of its offices in the West Bank following the detention Thursday of Muataz al-Kurdi, a Maan executive and head of the privately owned Al Amal TV station in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Maan also shut down its Web site. A message posted on the said the agency expressed its deep disappointment and indignation at the arrest of journalists.

The West Bank Palestinian government is locked in a bitter feud with the Islamic Hamas group, which violently seized power in the Gaza Strip in June. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Hamas government immediately after the Gaza takeover and set up a new government in the West Bank.

The new government has banned the only Hamas newspaper, Felasteen, from publishing in the West Bank and has barred all mention of Hamas on West Bank TV.

Ibrahim Ibrach, Abbas' culture minister, said al-Kurdi was arrested on security grounds. He said Abbas' government was wary of any individuals who provide a platform for Hamas, for fear the Islamic group might seek to overrun the West Bank as it did Gaza.

"The coup made the authority in the West Bank cautious," Ibrach said.

Friday is the Muslim holy day, and attempts to reach security officials to press for Al-Kurdi's release were unsuccessful, said Raed Othman, a Maan executive.

Othman criticized the Palestinian Authority for trying to muzzle journalists. "This would be a farce if it passes," Othman said.