Palestinian rights group condemns attacks on journalists

PCHR condemns the recent attacks on the offices of al-Arabiya Satellite Channel in Ramallah and al-Ayyam newspaper in Gaza city. PCHR considers these attacks an assault against freedom of the press and the freedom of expression and to receive and impart information. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Authority Attorney General to initiate an investigation and bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice.

On Saturday, 13 September 2003, a number of masked persons armed with machine guns, sticks and swords broke into the offices of al-Arabiya Satellite Channel in Ramallah. They threatened and insulted the staff. They forced 3 staff members into one room while they began to destroy office equipment. The attackers, who claimed to be members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah movement, did not give any reason for this attack. However, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade issued a statement later denying any connection to the attack, and describing its perpetrators as “intruders and dissidents from the national consensus.” Palestinian President Yasser Arafat also ordered the establishment of an inquiry committee to investigate the attack.

In the second attack, on Sunday morning, 14 September 2003, a number of armed persons intercepted a vehicle belonging to the distributors of al-Ayyam newspaper in Gaza city. They confiscated a number of copies of the newspaper. According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 08:30, a vehicle belonging to the newspaper, which is published in Ramallah, was traveling in Salah al-Din Street on its way from Erez crossing towards Gaza city, loaded with copies of the newspaper to be distributed in the Gaza Strip. To the north of Jabalya, two civilian cars intercepted it. Four gunmen got out of the cars and forced the driver of the newspaper’s vehicle and his two colleagues to move forward with their vehicle lodged between the two cars, one at the front and one traveling behind. They took them to an area located to the east of Jabalya. Two individuals in police uniform were waiting for them there. They claimed to be members of the customs department and forced the staff members of al-Ayyam to get out of the car. They confiscated about 1400 copies of the newspaper. However, the customs department later denied any connection to the incident. The attackers have not been identified.

PCHR condemns these attacks on al-Arabiya satellite channel and al-Ayyam newspaper and calls for respect for press freedoms enshrined in international human rights instruments. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressly provide that everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian Authority to conduct a full and fair investigation into the incidents, and prosecute those responsible in accordance with international legal standards.