Hamas has raided offices of CNN and Reuters in Gaza, confiscating equipment and documents, the Jerusalem Post reports. The move is a part of a series of steps aimed at suppressing coverage of "provocative" rallies, following an online call by Palestinian activists for Hamas and Fatah to set aside differences and form a unity government.
"Several armed men entered Reuters' office in Gaza on Saturday, threatened employees with guns and took away a video camera, apparently after they spotted a reporter filming a demonstration from the building," reported Reuters on March 19. "The men struck one Reuters journalist on the arm with a metal bar and threatened to throw another out of the window of the high-rise block."
CNN reports that the office of Japanese outlet NHK was raided, too, and that a Reuters employee "was beaten with an iron rod and another was threatened with being thrown out the window."
Several of the Hamas attacks concentrated on female journalists. Samah Ahmed, a journalist covering a pro-unity strike, was stabbed in the back by uniformed Hamas police officer. She and another journalist were arrested and severely beaten with clubs by the group's security forces. Journalist Jihan al-Sirsawi also complained of electric shock torture by the group, while two more female news agents were beaten, one with an iron chair.
At first, Hamas denied responsibility for the incident. "Initial information shows these men were not from the government. We have arrested some of them and we are going to interrogate them and see who they were acting for," Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad told reporters.
Later, after pressure from NGOs and local journalists over intimidation tactics, the group issued an apology and pledged to conduct an investigation. Reporters Without Borders stated that "such behavior is unacceptable" and called on the group to refrain from inhibiting coverage of local events. "Clear and precise instructions should be given to the security forces to avoid any recurrence of such violence and to ensure that journalists are free to work," they said.