The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused the Hamas Government in Gaza of intimidating journalists after a Gaza -based member of the Palestinian Journalists’ syndicate (PJS), Yousef al Ostaz was called in for questioning over his activities in the union.
“This is an outrageous interference in media affairs which must stop immediately,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The Hamas authorities have no business to investigate the role of an elected leader’s work for his union. This reckless behavior risks disrupting the important work the union is engaged in to unite journalists in the West Bank and Gaza.”
According to the PJS, the Hamas authorities in Gaza have launched an investigation in the activities of Ostaz in the syndicat. Ostaz, who was elected on the PJS board in the congress held in February 2010, has been questioned twice in three days, says the PJS.
The IFJ says this Hamas Government’s investigation is the latest in a long list of measures which undermine the development of independent and professional media in Gaza, including the IFJ efforts to build solidarity between journalists in Gaza and the West Bank.
Last September, Hamas stopped the streaming in Gaza by video link of a conference which was taking place in Ramallah during the visit of IFJ delegation led by the Federation’s President, Jim Boumelha.
“This so called investigation is another attempt to frustrate the creation of an environment which is conducive to professional journalism in Palestine,” added White. “We are determined to stand by our colleagues in Gaza who have to endure the Hamas oppressive regime.”
EFJ Alarmed by Bulgarian Complacency Over Bomb Attack on Newspaper
Today the EFJ expressed its concern over the "complacency and disregard" shown by the authorities in Bulgaria after a
recent bomb attack against the newspaper Galeria.
"We are concerned that media and journalists are targeted by a bomb attack, but we are just as alarmed by official complacency and willful disregard of journalists' rights should by the authorities over this attack", said EFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Bulgaria has a high record of threats and pressures on journalists and each case need to be investigated properly".
On 10 February at 5.30am a bomb exploded at the door of the newsroom of the newspaper Galeria. Fortunately, nobody was injured. The building and the offices were seriously damaged and two cars parked in front of the door were completely destroyed.
This explosion came as Galeria had published verbatim reports of telephone calls between the head of the Bulgarian Customs Agency, the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and senior Bulgarian officials showing that the Ministry of Interior has been covering up smuggling and providing protection to companies that violate laws. One of the reports brought evidence that top political leaders ordered the head of the customs agency to stop inspections in a company that produces alcohol illegally. The tapes were analysed by and independent agency in France and found to be authentic.
However, after the explosion representatives of the Bulgarian government suggested that journalists and owners of Galeria themselves had "an interest in this explosion". In addition to this comment, the President of the ruling Parliamentary Group GERB said that people who ordered and performed the attack may not be prosecuted because "such crimes are difficult to discover".
"The lack of responsibility of the political leaders after the explosion is astonishing", said Aidan White. "This approach endorses impunity. All crimes of violence against press freedom should be properly investigated and those responsible brought to justice. There cannot be press freedom if journalists live in fear".
The Union of Bulgarian Journalists declared in a statement immediately after the attack that "This latest attack against Bulgarian journalism once again demonstrates that its actions and activities are an obstacle for certain people and interests in our society. Whatever the editorial policies of a particular media outlet are, nothing can justify the attack on a newspaper as it happened with Galeria. As in other attacks against freedom of speech, the Union of Bulgarian Journalists strongly condemns such actions and calls on the authorities quickly to investigate and reveal all the circumstances surrounding this crime."
The EFJ fully supports journalists in Bulgaria and its members, the Union of Bulgarian Journalists and the Journalists' Union of Bulgaria-Podkrepa.
IFJ Calls for Probe into Serious Attack on CBS Reporter in Egypt
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for an investigation into the attack on Lara Logan, a reporter for the American TV cable network CBS, last Friday in Tahrir square, Cairo. CBS has confirmed that Logan was the victim of “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.”
“This is a shocking attack which must not go unpunished,” said Jim Boumelha. “The Egyptian Prime Minister has promised to investigate attacks on media during the protests and this is one the most serious incidents which need to be looked into.”
Media reports say Logan, who works on the CBS “60 minutes” programme, returned to Tahrir square on Friday evening to report on the crowd’s reaction to news of former President Mubarak’s stepping down. She got separated from her team and security detail before she was attacked by a group of protesters.
The IFJ says this tragic incident was the latest in a series of attacks on media during the crisis in Egypt, where journalists were arrested, suffered beatings and had their equipment damaged. The Federation, which led the campaign to end these attacks and asked the authorities to provide protection to journalists, says the attack on Logan should not have happened and lessons must be learned from it to improve the safety of journalists working in hostile environment.
“Circumstances surrounding Logan’s vicious attack are still unclear,” added Boumelha. “But it is clear she was a victim of a situation which must serve as a lesson both for journalists and their organisations to better prepare for high risk assignments.”
The IFJ wished Lara Logan, who is also campaigner for media safety and a board member of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), full and prompt recovery.