Police in Gaza detain foreign journalists over Desert Fox coverage
GAZA–Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip detained eight journalists, some affiliated with American news organizations including ABC News, and seized film and videotape after the camera operators recorded the burning of U.S. flags during Operation Desert Fox last December in contravention of an order from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Palestinian security forces also closed the Gaza City office of The Associated Press for the same incident.
The journalists were detained for a few hours and the AP office reopened the following day. Palestinian forces closed the AP office to prevent violations of ‘national interest,’ according to an AP report.
AP bureau chief Nicolas Tatro, who is also chairman of the Foreign Press Association, said by e-mail that he met with the head of the police force, Maj. Gen. Ghazi Jabali, who said the action was taken to protect the security interests of the Palestinians by preserving good relations with the United States and Britain.
On the same day, police shut down five Palestinian television stations and one radio station in the West Bank, forbidding coverage of pro-Iraq rallies or ‘pro-Iraqi material,’ according to an AP report. The bans were lifted after the end of Operation Desert Fox was announced.
Some of the broadcasters told the Associated Press that the closures came in direct response to coverage of U.S. military strikes, including reports of anti-U.S. sentiment and Palestinian expressions of sympathy with Iraq.
Organizations such as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists protested the Palestinian National Authority’s actions as ‘an attempt to silence independent journalism in flagrant violation of the right to free expression’ guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Journalists faced similar detention last October following the signing of the Wye Agreement. Eleven reporters, including a Newsweek journalist, were detained for a few hours in the Gaza Strip after attempting to interview Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas.