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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Palestinian journalists pledge allegiance to "His Excellency"

JPost: Some 100 Palestinian journalists converged on the presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Tuesday – not to interview Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, but to pledge allegiance to him. The official PA news agency Wafa said the journalists came from all over the West Bank "to renew their allegiance to His Excellency."

The journalists, who included representatives of international new organizations, did not trouble Arafat with any difficult questions. Three of the journalists who attended said no one dared to ask Arafat about recent attacks on Palestinian correspondents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Instead, they read poetry and delivered emotional speeches in his honor before they lined up to have their pictures taken alongside their leader.

Addressing the journalists, Arafat told them that their responsibilities were "great because of your suffering at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces." Arafat told the journalists that their work on behalf of the Palestinian cause was so effective that he was now considering including some of them in official PA delegations sent to the UN, US, and Europe. "The journalists are witnesses to what's happening and no one can challenge their testimony from the heart of events," he said. Arafat added that the Palestinians, including the journalists, are not only defending their villages, towns, and refugee camps, but the dignity of the entire Arab nation as well.

The journalists responded by expressing their affection and continued loyalty to Arafat.. Some of them read poems composed especially for Arafat in which they heaped praise on him, describing him as a symbol and great leader of the Palestinians.

The reception comes at a time when the PA is launching a campaign designed to "educate" all journalists who work for the non-Palestinian media.

The meeting with Arafat stands in sharp contrast to a demonstration staged in Gaza City on Monday to protest against attacks and threats against journalists. The protest was organized by scores of Palestinian journalists in solidarity with Al-Arabiya TV correspondent Seif al-Din Shahin, who was beaten by Fatah gunmen in Gaza City last week.