by Khaled Abu Toameh
In the past few days, at least eight journalists were severly beaten with clubs or summoned for questioning while doing their job in the Hamas-cointrolled Gaza Strip when Hamas policemen in civilian clothes began attacking demonstrators.
Other journalists have had their cameras and notepads confiscated while covering various events that were deemed "provocative" by the Hamas authorities.
Hamas believes that intimidation of the media will prevent the truth from coming out. Like most Arab dictatorships, Hamas does not tolerate stories that reflect negatively on its radical regime in the Gaza Strip - the reason the Hamas government has been cracking down on local journalists who fail to toe the line.
Although some of the journalists who were assaulted work with international news organizations, many of these foreign media outlets ignored the story, apparently out of fear of retribution by the Hamas authorities.
These journalists who chose to defy Hamas should be supported not only by their foreign colleagues, but also by Western governments and human rights organizations.
Otherwise, the day will come when the world will never know what is really happening inside Hamas's Gaza Strip.
In an attempt to divert attention from its repressive measures, the Hamas government this week issued an apology to all Palestinian journalists who were beaten up during their work.
But the apology is nothing but a ploy designed to absorb growing resentment with Hamas's totalitarian regime in the Gaza Strip.
Some Palestinian journalists have succumbed to the threats and violence by changing their profession; others are continuing to do their job despite the dangers; many Palestinian journalists may soon be forced to go underground out of concern for their safety.
The attacks on Palestinian journalists reached their peak on March 15, when Hamas policemen used force to disperse thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in a public square in Gaza City to demand "national unity" between Hamas and Fatah.
The demonstration was part of a Facebook campaign organized by Palestinian youth with the aim of exerting pressure on the two rival parties to end their dispute and form a unity government.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned the assault of Palestinian journalists and said it was "gravely concerned by Hamas's crackdown on the media."
It said that "on a day ostensibly devoted to Palestinian unity, police brutally attacked photographers and cameramen, beating the, breaking equipment and confiscating photos and video footage. This is the latest in a string of chilling attacks on reporters in Gaza."
But the West sits silent.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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