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Palestinian journalists face increased oppression as PA violations exceed those of Israel for first time

PALESTINIAN journalists are facing increased violence and oppression at the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to a report from a leading media rights group today.

The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) said that a crackdown by President Mahmoud Abbas saw violations committed by the PA against media workers exceed those of Israel for the first time.

It described the development as “shocking and dangerous” with reporters facing a wave of serious attacks and restrictions on press freedom in the occupied territories.

Mada said the situation for journalists had deteriorated since the mysterious death of prominent PA critic Nizar Banat in PA custody in June, which triggered mass protests calling for Mr Abbas to resign.

His cousin, who was present when Fatah security forces raided Mr Banat’s home, said he was beaten with metal and wooden sticks before being stripped naked and bundled into the back of a military vehicle.

Human rights groups and Mr Banat’s family said that the autopsy showed that he suffocated from blood in his lungs after being beaten by security forces.

Demonstrations in the aftermath of the killing of the former Fatah member were met with a brutal response from the security forces, with scores taken into custody and tear gas being fired at protesters.

Mada said there “was a clear official Palestinian attempt” to prevent media coverage of the protests in the West Bank after Mr Banat’s killing, “without any consideration for press freedoms or the safety of journalists.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammed Shtayyeh insists that the PA respects press freedom, but said that coverage should be responsible and not distort issues to favour certain political agendas.

Mada’s June report said that the media NGO viewed “with great seriousness the dangerous deterioration in freedom of expression, which is now subject to serious violations by security agencies that are supposed to protect citizens, journalists and media workers, and not violate their rights.”

In 2017 Mr Abbas introduced the oppressive Electronic Crimes Law, which has seen journalists and government critics arrested and jailed while websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages have been shut down.

Mr Abbas delayed elections scheduled for May – the first in Palestine for 15 years – blaming Israel for refusing to administer the poll in occupied East Jerusalem.

Critics said the poll was delayed deliberately with Mr Abbas fearing a strong showing for Hamas.

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