RSF has demanded a prompt and full investigation after the Gaza City offices of the weekly newspaper “Al-Daar” were ransacked during the Muslim Eid festival, between 1 and 3 February 2004.
“The Palestinian Authority should act decisively to prevent attacks against journalists and the media in the territories under its control,” the organisation said in a letter to Palestinian Interior Minister Hakam Balaawi.
Contacted by RSF, “Al-Daar” editor-in-chief Hassan Al-Kachef said the offices had been ransacked and computers were damaged but nothing was stolen, which ruled out a normal burglary. “I think it is more likely a warning to the newspaper because we broach subjects like corruption within the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
Al-Arabiya satellite television’s correspondent was assaulted in Gaza on 8 January. Four months earlier, on 13 September 2003, a group of armed men ransacked the offices of the same television station in Ramallah (see alert of 15 September 2003). The Palestinian Authority publicly condemned the incidents and announced the opening of an investigation, but no information has emerged since to confirm that an investigation is underway.
“There has been an alarming rise in acts of vandalism against the media and physical attacks against journalists in the Palestinian territories since September 2003,” RSF said in its letter to the minister. “Our organisation calls on you to take action so that these repeated press freedom violations do not go unpunished.”
“The Interior Ministry should henceforth guarantee the safety of the media, particularly by protecting them from harassment by paramilitary groups and settling of scores by politicians,” RSF concluded in its letter. The organisation also asked to be kept informed of the outcome of investigations into previous attacks against Al-Arabiya.
“Al-Daar” is a privately-owned weekly that was launched at the end of August 2003. Al-Kachef said the paper has a print-run of 5,000 copies in Gaza and on the occupied West Bank, and its website, www.aldaar.com, reportedly receives approximately 30,000 hits per week.