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Hamas cracks down on journalists, activists in Gaza

Hamas police forces continue to raid the homes of activists in the Gaza Strip who expose the corruption of Hamas figures and members.
Palestinian journalists protest in Gaza City against attacks on journalists in the Palestinian territories, Aug. 28, 2007.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Police forces affiliated with Hamas in the Gaza Strip raided the home Oct. 31 of journalist Ahmad Saeed and arrested him after he previously exposed the involvement of smugglers from Gaza, with the support of authorities, in smuggling citizens from the enclave toward Libya and from there to Europe. The incident ended with the migrant boat capsizing off the Tunisian coast Oct. 24.

Police forces entered Saeed’s home as he was broadcasting live on Facebook about the boat accident that killed seven Palestinians.

A few minutes later, Saeed wrote on Facebook, “The police entered my house to make an arrest and claimed that they have a search warrant.”

Hours later, Saeed posted another video on Facebook showing the arrival of a police force to his house to arrest him.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Saeed said that the smuggling operation to Libya was carried out in coordination with the Hamas-run crossing authorities in Gaza. 

He explained that family members of the persons involved in the smuggling operation had broken into his house and threatened his family, adding that the security forces did not protect him.

Saeed said he tried to contact the head of the government media office in Gaza, Salama Maarouf, to file a complaint against the security services, but the latter ignored his calls. Saeed then called on the head of the Hamas movement in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, to intervene directly to protect his life and his family.

Media organizations expressed solidarity with Saeed and demanded that the security authorities in Gaza take the necessary measures to protect him and ensure media freedom away from all forms of intimidation.

On Oct. 23, Hamas-affiliated security forces in civilian clothes stormed the family house of Ramzi Herzallah, a Palestinian activist residing in Belgium and an opponent of Hamas’ rule in Gaza, threatening his family if he does not stop criticizing Hamas’ policies.

Social media activists circulated a video on Facebook showing a Hamas security member threatening the father and mother of Herzallah inside the family home in Gaza City.

In a Facebook post that was later removed, Herzallah called on Gazans to go to his home to protect his family.

The raid on his family home came after Herzallah repeatedly accused on social media Hamas figures of being involved in financial and administrative corruption cases.

Al-Monitor tried to contact Maarouf, head of the government media office, via phone and text messages to get a comment on the office’s position on these raids against activists and journalists. We received no answer.

Saleh al-Masry, head of the Journalists Support Committee, a Palestinian nongovernmemntal organization that monitors violations against Palestinian journalists, expressed his solidarity with journalists and activists who are being attacked while doing their work or for expressing their opinions.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Masry called on government agencies in Gaza to support journalists working in investigative journalism, to provide them with protection and to create a media environment that contributes to freedom of opinion and expression.

Article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law states, “Freedom of opinion may not be violated. Every person shall have the right to express his opinion and to circulate it orally, in writing or in any form of expression or art, with due consideration to the provisions of the law.”

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