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June 26, 2007

Hamas May Be Suppressing the News -- So What's New?

A recent L.A. Times editorial urging Hamas to see to the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston spoke of the "broader implications" of the Johnston issue:

It's no coincidence that murders of journalists worldwide are increasing. To suppress information is to hoard power; it kneecaps democratic development. ... What kind of civil society can bloom in their silence?

A modern society, whether in Gaza or Iraq, cannot aspire to political accountability if its press is terrorized.

It should be recalled, though, that suppression of the news has been a part of Palestinian Authority and PLO culture for some time, as noted in a 2004 Boston Globe column by Jeff Jacoby:

Suppressing news by threatening reporters with violence or death is one of the dirty little secrets of Middle East journalism. In his 1989 memoir "From Beirut to Jerusalem," Thomas Friedman wrote that "physical intimidation" was a major impediment to honest reporting from Beirut during the years when southern Lebanon was in the grip of Yasser Arafat's PLO.

"There were . . . stories which were deliberately ignored out of fear," Friedman admitted. "How many serious stories were written from Beirut about the well-known corruption in the PLO leadership. . . ? It would be hard to find any hint of them in Beirut reporting before the Israeli invasion." Instead of reporting what they knew, journalists censored themselves. "The Western press coddled the PLO," Friedman acknowledged. "For any Beirut-based correspondent, the name of the game was keeping on good terms with the PLO."

That was more than 20 years ago. Has anything changed?

In the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accord, Arafat and the PLO assumed control of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. Reconstituted as the Palestinian Authority, or PA, they lost no time cracking down on the press.

Read how here.

Posted by at June 26, 2007 12:36 PM


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