Hamas Arrests Another Journalist, Day After Condemnations for Suppressing Press Freedom

A Gaza journalist was arrested by Hamas on Thursday, Ynet reported, becoming the latest Palestinian media member to have been detained by the Iran-backed terror group this year.  The arrest came the day after Human Rights Watch (HRW) blasted Hamas for its abuse of the media in a wide-ranging report.

Mohammed Othman, a correspondent for Al-Monitor, was arrested at his home Thursday. His wife said that Hamas security officials brandished a warrant but gave no reason for the arrest. Othman was barred by Hamas’s Health Ministry from visiting hospitals in Gaza last month after he did a report on medical mistakes.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Union demanded that Hamas release Othman in a statement on Friday.

HRW’s report criticized both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for “arresting, abusing, and criminally charging” journalists and activists who criticize them, charging that the authorities’ actions had a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories. HRW documented two journalists, as well as an activist and two rappers, who were arrested for criticizing authorities. Four of those detained were allegedly tortured or otherwise abused.

Longtime Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported last week that both the PA and Hamas were seeking to silence critics ahead of October’s municipal elections. The ongoing crackdown on journalists in the West Bank and Gaza reflects the insecurity of their ruling authorities, Abu Toameh charged. “The less politically secure they feel, the more they strip Palestinian journalists of their ability to report how things really stand,” he wrote.

The repression of journalists has long been a problem in the Palestinian territories, which received an unfavorable press freedom score of 84 (with 100 being the worst) from Freedom House in 2015. A survey released by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms in 2014 found that “80% of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza practice self-censorship of their writing.” A poll published that same year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 70 percent of Palestinians did not feel that they could criticize the PA.

[Photo: Mohammed Othman / Flash90 ]