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Monday, January 12, 2004

FATAH's troubled relations with the Press

"We don't want to be on the side of those who practice intellectual terrorism"
JPost: Last week, Al-Arabiya's correspondent in the Gaza Strip, Seif al-Din Shahin, was attacked and wounded as he was driving his car in the center of Gaza City. He said the attackers identified themselves as members of Fatah.

Shahin, 35, said five gunmen fired warning shots into the air, intercepted his car, dragged him out, and beat him with the butts of their rifles for nearly 10 minutes. The attackers told Shahin they were unhappy with his coverage of paramilitary celebrations in the Gaza Strip marking the 39th anniversary of the founding of Fatah.

Masked militants of Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia
linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestinian
National Liberation Movement (Fatah), dance with their
during a rally to mark the 39th anniversary of the
movement's foundation in Gaza City, Wednesday,
Dec. 31, 2003. Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered
at the Palestinian Legislative council to mark the anniversary
of the 1965 founding of Fatah. Activists wave yellow, white
Fatah and Palestinian flags. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Many Palestinians have criticized Fatah for allowing hundreds of armed men who participated in the celebrations to shoot extensively into the air, wounding several people in different parts of the Gaza Strip. The celebrations reportedly cost Fatah more than $3 million.

"I was in the car with one of my colleagues when we were surprised by a car that blocked our way," Shahin said from his bed in Gaza's Shifa Hospital, where he is being treated for bruises. "Five masked men came out of the car and started firing into the air. Then they forced me and my friend to get out of our car."

Shahin said the gunmen beat him all over his body with the butts of their rifles and clubs. "When I tried to escape they fired some shots towards me," he said. "One of the attackers, who did not have a mask on his face, approached me and told me that he was from Fatah. He said from now on it is forbidden for me to make any mention of Fatah in my reporting."

Shahin said he received death threats earlier this week from people who said they belong to Fatah. "I reported these threats to the Palestinian Authority security forces, and it is time that they take deal with this case," he said.

Samir Mashharawi, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, strongly condemned the attack on Shahin, denying that his group was responsible. "Fatah condemns this cowardly action," he said. "I don't believe that Fatah or any of its members have endorsed this cowardly action. We don't want to be on the side of those who practice intellectual terrorism."