The international Committee to Protect Journalists reports that "fear and self-censorship continue to hamper the Palestinian press." The report for 1998 states, "Yasser Arafat's Palestinian National Authority's... authoritarian-style tactics against independent-minded journalists have forced most to steer clear of sensitive topics such as corruption, mismanagement, or any news that would cast Arafat or his authority in a negative light." Two of the three private Palestinian dailies have direct financial or political links to the PNA, while a columnist for the third - the privately-owned, Jerusalem-based Al-Quds - has this to say: "They [the editors] censor about 40% of my articles concerning Palestinian policies, corruption, and mismanagement. I don't send them sensitive stories because I know what they will and will not publish."
The report notes that private broadcast media were targets of repeated harassment and censorship, and the Palestinian "Ministry of Information" banned all broadcasting of opinion and analysis about the recent U.S.-Iraqi crisis. More than 100 police surrounded the offices of the Bethlehem-based Al-Roa' TV and forced the station to suspend broadcasting after it had aired news about pro-Iraqi demonstrations in the autonomous areas. The station remained closed without official explanation for five months. In December, police ordered six private television and radio stations in Ramallah and Bethlehem to suspend broadcasting until further notice.
The report states that police and security forces continued to operate outside the law in 1998, arbitrarily intimidating and arresting reporters. Security forces detained free-lance journalist Abbas Moumani last May, holding him incommunicado for nine days. Following the October signing of the Wye River peace accord between the PNA and Israel, Palestinian authorities moved to muzzle criticism of the deal. The day after the signing, ten journalists were detained while attempting to interview Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin about the agreement. The report includes a list of 17 reporters who were harassed, censored, attacked, or imprisoned by the PNA over the course of 1998.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Friday, April 9, 1999 / Nisan 23, 5759 - Day 8 of the Omer
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