GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Palestinian journalist working for al-Jazeera has accused Hamas police in the Gaza Strip of physically assaulting him while covering a Turkish minister’s visit to the coastal enclave on Sunday.Journalist Muhammad Fayyad told the Palestinian Journalists’ Union that when he arrived at the Gazan Ministry of Endowments to take photos of the minister’s visit, a security guard shoved him back, even though he says he had permission to be there.
When Fayyad asked the plain clothes security guard why he had shoved him, he says that he was pushed again before being assaulted by a number of Hamas officers who then forced him from the building. Fayyad added that he “was struck on the head by a police officer” as he was being taken out of the building.He says that he then went to a police station to make a complaint, but was surprised to find that the policemen had already made a complaint and that there was an arrest order against him.
While at the Hamas police station, the journalist says that he began to feel the effects of the assault and was taken to the al-Shifa Hospital for treatment.He was later arrested by Hamas police officers and released on bail.The journalists’ union has demanded that the Hamas security services stop all action taken against Fayyad and re-interrogate the security guards who assaulted him.The union has also called on rights organizations including the International Federation of Journalists and the Federation of Arab Journalists to pressure Hamas to cease all violations against journalists.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement that “during the Turkish minister of endowments’ visit… some journalists caused chaos and a disturbance that misrepresented our people’s image and embarrassed those responsible for the visit’s agenda.”
The statement added: “Accordingly, security men intervened to control the situation, leading to the arrest of the al-Jazeera reporter after he verbally abused and disturbed the security men’s job and did not commit to the visit’s arrangements.”The journalist was later released until an investigation of the incident is complete and legal procedures may be taken.”The ministry called on journalists to respect procedures and arrangements that the security services take during activities and visits to the Gaza Strip.The journalists’ union said that the ministry’s statement was an “offense” to journalists, and called on the ministry to listen to the testimonies of other journalists who had witnessed the incident.The Gaza Center for Press Freedom reported hundreds of “violations of press freedom” to have taken place across the occupied Palestinian Territories last year, in what was the deadliest year for Palestinian journalists on record.While this included 295 violations committed by Israeli forces, it also included 82 violations of press freedom committed by Palestinian authorities, who arrested or summoned 28 journalists and injured or assaulted 26 more.