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al-Arabiya & Ma'an News Agency Closed In Gaza: PCHR Concerns

PCHR Concerned over Closing Offices of al-Arabiya Channel and Ma'an News Agency in Gaza by Attorney-General’s Decision

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is concerned over closing the offices of al-Arabiya Satellite Channel, Ma'an News Agency and Lines Media Company upon a decision issued by the Attorney General in Gaza. PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to reconsider this decision and respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and press freedoms that are guaranteed under the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights standards.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:30 on Thursday, 25 July 2013, 6 members of the General Investigation Service (GIS) in civilian clothes arrived to the office of MBC group, which includes the office of al-Arabiya Channel, on the 12th floor of al-Shorouq building in the west of Gaza City. The GIS members showed a decision issued by the Attorney General in Gaza, Isma'il Jaber, to temporarily close the office of al-Arabiya Channel and seize its contents. At approximately 16:40 of the same day, other GIS members headed to the office of Ma'an News Agency on the 6th floor of Shawwa and Husari building in the west of Gaza City. They informed the staff of the Attorney General’s decision to close the office and seize its contents.

In the evening, the Ministry of Information in Gaza published a press release issued by the Attorney General.[1] The press release stated the Attorney Aeneral in Gaza had issued a decision to close the offices of al-Arabiya Satellite Channel and Ma'an News Agency in Gaza. According to the press release also, "This decision was issued because these 2 media offices had published fabricated news, rumors and inaccurate information that posed a threat to civil peace and negatively affected the Palestinian people and resistance." Moreover, the Governmental Media Office stated that it filed an official complaint against Ma'an News Agency because it published  a news item claiming that leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had sneaked into Gaza, which was attributed to an unnamed "Israeli" source.

Moreover, the Ministry of Information in Gaza declared on its website that it questioned the director of Ma'an News Agency’s office in Gaza about the agency's news:[2] "The Ministry of Information asked the director of Ma'an News Agency’s office in the Gaza Strip about a fake news item published by the agency, claiming that leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt sneaked into the Gaza Strip and were staying in a hotel in Gaza City. The agency attributed this piece of news to unknown Israeli sources. The Ministry pointed out that this news item was untrue and depended on Israeli sources. It also stressed that Ma'an News Agency insisted to engage the Gaza Strip in the Egyptian crisis and promote the Egyptian incitement against the Gaza Strip."

Hamas issued a press release through different media, calling upon the legal authorities and officials in the government of Gaza to take the necessary legal action against this agency and whoever incites violence and hatred against Palestinians.

In the same context, the Attorney General issued a decision to close Lines Media Company. According to the Attorney General’s statement, the decision was issued was based on a decision issued by the Council of Ministers in Gaza to prevent communication with media agencies that cooperate with the Israeli authorities, pointing out that the company had communicated with the Israeli "124NEWS" satellite channel.

In light of the above, PCHR asserts the following:

1- The right to freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed under article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law and under international human rights standards;

2- The Palestinian Basic Law denies any form of monitoring, ban or warning or the imposition of restrictions over the media unless by a judicial decision in conformity with article (27-3) of the same Law;

3- With our reservation on the Press and Publications Law of 1995, it entitles courts only to consider all violations of the law and oblige media agencies to announce their sources of information; and

4- Closing the offices upon a decision by the Attorney General, in light of the technological development and information revolution, will not stop the information flow to people in Gaza or anywhere and will not undermine the messages sent by such channels.

Therefore, PCHR:

1- Calls upon the Attorney General in Gaza to reconsider his decisions and re-open the offices of al-Arabiya Channel, Ma'an News Agency and Lines Media Company; and

2- Calls upon the government in Gaza to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and press freedoms that are guaranteed under the Palestinian Basic Law and international human right standards.

ENDS

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