Category: Press Releases, MENA, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Palestinian Authority

Israel halts printing of Gaza papers in West Bank

Dailies resumed printing following Palestinian factions’ reconciliation move

A copy of a pro-Hamas newspaper appears on sale in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 10. Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

VIENNA, May 30, 2014 - The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned an Israeli security forces raid on a Palestinian printing plant in an apparent effort to halt publication of several newspapers.

Security forces stormed the Al-Ayyam daily and stopped its printing operations, according to the Opens external link in new windowPalestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms and IPI sources. The Ramallah-based newspaper prints editions of three Gaza papers that only recently resumed sales in the West Bank.

The Opens external link in new windowPalestinian Journalists Syndicate, citing statements by Israeli officials, said in a news release that the raid was carried out to stop newspapers that allegedly incite hatred of Israel.

“This action appears to go against international norms that Israel professes to uphold, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the access to information ‘through any media and regardless of frontiers’,” Steven M. Ellis, an IPI senior press freedom advisor, said. “Absent clear statements likely to incite imminent violence, individuals and news media should be allowed to exercise this fundamental right.”

The Gaza-based papers - Falastin, al-Resala and al-Istiqlal - only earlier this month resumed sales in the West Bank after a seven-year gap. The reciprocal resumption of newspaper distribution in the Gaza and West Bank began as a sign of the growing cooperation between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, which dominates the West Bank, and the openly anti-Israel Hamas faction that seized control of Gaza in 2007.

The Palestinians’ political reconciliation roiled Israel and helped undermine recent peace talks between the Israelis and Fatah. The Israeli government brands Hamas a terror organisation.

Hanan Ashrawi, a longtime Palestinian politician and member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, denounced the raid as an assault on free expression. "The raid into the borders of the Palestinian state and the violation of its sovereignty and its media institutions is a flagrant attack on Palestinians' basic human rights and a violation of norms along with international and humanitarian laws that ensure freedom of opinion and expression," she said in a statement quoted by Opens external link in new windowReuters.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel authorities.