Dozens of Palestinian journalists have staged a protest in front of the bombed Al-Aqsa TV building in Gaza City, condemning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to designate the Hamas-owned station as a “terrorist organisation”.
During the rally on Thursday, members of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights described Netanyahu’s decision, taken a day earlier, as a “prelude to target journalists and media outlets and institutions”.
That was echoed by Adel Zanoun, AFP news agency’s bureau chief in Gaza City.
“I fear this act is a preface for Israel directly targeting Palestinian journalists. They aim to stop Palestinians from reporting on the violent acts Israel is committing against the Palestinians,” Zanoun told Middle East Eye.
Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s defence minister, “signed an order declaring the Hamas al-Aqsa television channel to be a terrorist organisation”, his office said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘I fear this act is a preface for Israel directly targeting Palestinian journalists. They aim to stop Palestinians from reporting on the violent acts Israel is committing against the Palestinians’
– Adel Zanoun, AFP bureau chief in Gaza City
The decision was made on the advice of Israeli security services, the statement said, which were said to have discovered Hamas’s “use of the al-Aqsa satellite channel to recruit militants to its ranks”.
In mid-February, Israel’s Shin Bet security service accused Hamas of using agents inside the channel to recruit militants in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, including using the channel to communicate with potential recruits, AFP said.
During a flare-up in violence in November, Israel destroyed the offices of al-Aqsa in Gaza City, though the channel has continued to broadcast.
On Thursday, Ibrahim Daher, general manager of al-Aqsa TV, said the “dangerous decision” could endanger his staff.
“We will work to bring cases in local and international courts and call on international organisations to highlight this new crime against media freedom,” he told AFP news agency.
Israel, along with the United States and European Union, brands Hamas a terrorist organisation. The group came to power in 2007 in the Gaza Strip after winning Palestinian elections.
The coastal Palestinian territory has been subjected to a crippling Israeli blockade for more than a decade.
Wael al-Dahdouh, an Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent in Gaza, told MEE Israel’s decision to designate al-Aqsa TV as a terrorist organisation may serve as a motivator for Palestinian journalists to continue documenting the rights abuses they experience.
“This has to be a motivation for Palestinian journalists to continue reporting and practising freedom of the press, and publish the truth in their articles, videos, and photos that show the Israeli violence against the Palestinians,” he said.