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Wednesday, May 26 2010

Palestinian Journo Reacts to Death Threats

Khaled_abu_toamehThe background: While on a visit Down Under, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh was threatened by the PLO's "ambassador" to Australia, Ali Razak.

The threat: Razak told The Australian:

Kazak told The Australian: "Khaled Abu Toameh is a traitor." These are dangerous words in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Kazak admits that many Palestinians are murdered in the West Bank and Gaza for being traitors.

He says he doesn't agree with it but: "Traitors were also murdered by the French Resistance, in Europe; this happens everywhere."

Asked why he calls Abu Toameh a traitor, Kazak says: "Palestinians are the victims. He shouldn't write about them, he should write about the crimes of the Israelis."

Kazak admits there is corruption and violence in the West Bank and Gaza. "Of course, Palestinian society isn't perfect. I myself have criticised it," he says. But Kazak objects to Abu Toameh writing about it.

The response: Toameh writes:

Kazak's threat does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the methods used by Arab dictatorships to silence anyone who dares to demand reforms and transparency.

The threat reminds journalists like me how lucky we are that we live in Israel and not under the jurisdiction of the PLO or Hamas . . . .

The PLO, like most of the Arab dictatorships, has a long history of targeting journalists who refuse to "toe the line." This clampdown is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian media is still far from being independent and free . . . .

The absence of a free and independent media in the Palestinian territories has driven many Palestinians to seek work in the Western media, including Israeli newspapers and radio and TV stations.

Read the whole thing.

The problem Toameh spotlights doesn't just effect Palestinian news consumers. Western news services rely heavily on Palestinian stringers, who face the same pressures. Earlier this year, when the Journalists Syndicate voted for new leadership, Fatah was caught rigging the vote. Hamas' regulations on style and wording prompted one reporter to despairingly exclaim:

"I'm unconvinced by every term I draw on in my reporting."

For Palestinian journalists living under Hamas or Fatah jurisdiction, the alternative to speaking out is to follow the party line. It makes for dreary reporting, but it's safer, isn't it?



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