Palestinian journalists targeted

Amnesty International has called on the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to release all journalists who are being detained for carrying out their legitimate professional activities, amid continuing harassment of media workers in the region.The call came after Hamas released British journalist Paul Martin, who was arrested in Gaza last month after being accused of “collaborating with Israel”, an allegation he strongly denies.  Paul Martin was held for more than three weeks after travelling to Gaza to testify at the trial of a Palestinian accused of collaborating with Israel.   Palestinian journalists working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been repeatedly targeted by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities, a number of journalists continue to be detained and harassment of media workers is a common occurrence. “The welcome release of Paul Martin focuses attention on the continuing curbs on media freedom and harassment of journalists working in Gaza and the West Bank,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart. “In particular, it is Palestinian journalists that are targeted. Not only are they subject to harassment by Israeli forces but in the West Bank, those considered sympathetic to Hamas are liable to be detained by Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces, while in Gaza, those considered sympathetic to Fatah have been targeted by members of the Hamas security agencies.”In the West Bank last month, Tariq Abu Zaid, a reporter for Al-Aqsa television, seen as affiliated to Hamas, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by a PA military court, although he is a civilian. He was charged with “undermining the status of the Authority and resisting the public policy of the Palestinian Authority”.  The prosecutor’s office also said Tariq Abu Zaid had been found guilty of incitement, “imparting information” and providing money to parties opposed to the PA.  Tariq Abu Zaid has been subject to repeated detentions. In 2008 he was held by the Israeli authorities without charge or trial for 11 months. After being released by Israel, he was then arrested by PA military intelligence officials in 2009. On 12 January 2010, the Palestinian High Court of Justice ordered Abu Zaid’s immediate release but the Palestinian security police did not comply with the court order.Another journalist, Mustafa Sabri, formerly of al-Risala newspaper, was released earlier this week after been detained without charge or trial for more than two months by PA security forces. Mustafa Sabri, who is also an elected member of Qalqiliya council for the “Change and Reform” list, has been repeatedly arrested by the Palestinian security agencies in the West Bank despite decisions by the Palestinian High Court on each occasion for him to be released.Meanwhile, the Israeli authorities recently detained Omar Bladi, owner and presenter of the Palestinian radio station Kul al-Nas.  Omar Bladi’s detention was set by an Israeli military court at 50 days in prison and he was fined 1,500 shekels (US$400), although he has not been charged with a recognizable criminal offence. Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its concerns about freedom of expression for journalists working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza have curtailed media freedom and taken action against media and journalists who criticized them.  Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories frequently harass and use excessive force against Palestinian journalists.