From Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Palestinian police answerable to Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have been terrorizing non-conformist Palestinian journalists throughout the West Bank in a manner unprecedented since the creation of the PA following the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Assaults on journalists and cameramen increased dramatically recently especially in the aftermath of the American-hosted peace conference in Annapolis , Maryland .
On Thursday, 29 November, crack policemen in the southern West Bank of Hebron brutally beat Muhammed Halayka, a cameraman working for a Gaza-based TV station for filming anti-Annapolis protests in the city.
At least one Palestinian, a 37-year-old man, was killed during protests on Tuesday, when trigger-happy policemen opened fire on demonstrators in downtown Hebron .
Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured, some very badly, throughout the West Bank as police were ordered to violently repress any public opposition to the Annapolis conference.
Halayka, who was taken to hospital told reporters, that seven PA policemen ganged up on him, beating him with their fists and butts of their rifles, until he collapsed.
“The security apparatus summoned me for interrogation for filming the demonstrations. And when I arrived, more than seven young officers ganged up on me, beating me and kicking me all over my body, including my face, until I collapsed.”
Toward the evening, Halayka was transferred to hospital.
According to Halayka, the interrogators warned him that he would have to pay ten thousand dollars if he informed the media of what happened to him.
Earlier, PA police arrested Bassam Duweik for filming protests in Hebron and for “incitement and besmirching PA image.”
Duweik is a Hebrew translator who also works for a number of newspapers inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territories.
Moreover, the PA preventive security in the town of Dura summoned Walid Amayreh, also a journalist, for interrogation in connection with his purported intention to write a book critical of the PA.
Amayreh was forced to sign a written pledge stating that he wouldn’t criticize the PA or indulge in incitement.
On Tuesday, PA police violently attacked journalists in Ramallah, Bethlehem and several other localities, beating them savagely for covering demonstrations protesting the Annapolis conference.
Several journalists were reportedly beaten, including Wael Shoyoukhi, an Aljazeera correspondent, who was badly hurt, having been hit on the head.
A PA official said he regretted attacks on journalists. The PA Minister of Interior, Abdul Razzaq al Yahya was quoted as saying that “journalists have to appreciate the situation we are facing. We are sorry for what happened, but journalists and reporters have to obey the law.”
Some Palestinian journalists condemned PA western backers for remaining silent in the face of PA police attacks on press freedom in the West Bank .
“The US and the EU keep babbling about press freedom and democracy and these things. But when they watch these beasts gang up and mercilessly beat reporters in the streets of the West Bank, they play blind, dumb and deaf,” said Muhammed Rajoub, a journalist from the Hebron region.
“Is this the democracy they are promising us?”
Rajoub said “in this case silence means satisfaction and even complicity.”
Since the mid-June events in Gaza , when Hamas militiamen ousted Fatah police forces after a week-long bloody showdown, the western-backed government in Ramallah has been clamping down on press freedom.
The PA closed down several press offices and radio and TV stations for “indulging in illegal activities and incitement.”
Moreover, as many as 15 journalists were arrested and, in many cases, mistreated and tortured.
The Palestinian justice system in the West Bank is virtually paralyzed and in most cases security agencies don’t heed court decisions.