Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Gaza’s Media under Heavy Surveillance | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Scenes of Hamas fighters storming the television headquarters in Gaza and their sabotage of broadcasting equipment and offices after the movement’s takeover of the Gaza Strip were clear signs indicating the media’s inevitable deterioration.

Amidst the severe and rampant chaos that has swept through Gaza, including liquidations, destruction and terrorization; the Palestinian press could not avoid witnessing trying times  if not catastrophic ones.

The Palestinian press, which is essentially divided between two movements [Fatah and Hamas] had previously waged fierce propaganda battles that only served to deepen the Palestinian divide.

Like the divisions in Iraq and Lebanon, Palestinians also have their share and the media is not immune against a volatile and exacerbated state such as that engulfing Gaza today. As such, the media has transformed into barricades that are no less lethal than the weapons that are rife and unrestrained in Gaza.

The latest repercussions of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas in the media field were reflected in the decision issued by Salam Fayyad’s government to shutdown the Ministry of Information’s headquarters in Gaza because of what he described as serious and unprecedented violations against Palestinian media figures.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Union has entered into a showdown with Hamas condemning the latter’s decision that stipulates that journalists have to obtain their media credentials from the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information, rather than the press union as is customary. This move was considered by the Palestinian Journalists’ Union as a subversion of its role.

These recent developments are taking place within the framework of the confusion and chaos that reigns over the public internally. They are also indicative of the deep chasm that keeps getting wider behind national slogans that parties hide behind when they adopt any supervisory measures that limit public liberties and media freedoms.

It has become shocking easy to challenge journalists with resounding terms such as “national interests” and “confronting the Zionist project” so as to justify the restrictions imposed on the press and the journalists.

In Gaza, surveillance over the media has redoubled so that news reports and investigations are usually delivered to satellite news channels or to newspapers’ editorial offices after having undergone self-censorship by the journalists who live under the weighty gaze of Hamas’s surveillance and direct regulation on the strip.

But the situation was not an ideal one before this extremist movement seized control of Gaza. This is an undisputed fact.

However, what journalists secretly or publicly exchange in Gaza and what is sometimes reflected in the source material that arrives from there is the same sense of the severity of the pressure of Hamas’s surveillance over the material and images.

Journalists who are summoned to the Ministry of Information or the Hamas-affiliated governmental media committee are interrogated for using certain terminology in their media reports. Some are even subject to military investigations and are threatened with imprisonment.

All these signs point towards the gravity of the current situation in Gaza.