The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) released a statement, on Thursday, denouncing a Gaza courtâ€™s absentia decision to imprison a female Palestinian journalist who is currently in Jordan receiving cancer treatment.
According to MADA, the Gaza Magistrate Court sentenced journalist Hajar Muhammad Abu Samra to six months in prison and a fine of 1,000 shekels ($284) over an investigative report done by Abu Samra, on the Arab television network more than a year ago, about corruption in the Medical Referrals Department in the Ministry of Health in Gaza Strip.
â€śMADA expresses its deep concern of this ruling that is considered a very serious precedent against media freedoms, freedom of expression and the role of the press in Palestine. It sees this as another setback to the growing repression of media freedoms,â€ť the statement said, according to Ma’an News Agency.
The statement also highlighted that the decision was issued in absence of the journalist and without her or her lawyerâ€™s knowledge. According to MADA, Abu Samraâ€™s lawyer Mirvat al-Nahal, who works for the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, learned of the decision through social media.
According to MADA, al-Nahal said she only found out about the decision â€śrecentlyâ€ť despite it being issued on June 4. Al-Nahal also pointed out that â€śaccording to Article 403 of the Penal Code, the sentence should not be imposed on my client because of her health conditions, since she is currently abroad for treatment.â€ť
MADA wished a â€śspeedy recoveryâ€ť for Abu Samra and called for annulment of the decision, which the group said â€śflagrantly violates media freedom and undermines it critical oversight role in the society.â€ť
Hamas, the de facto ruling authority of Gaza, has stifled dissident voices in the blockaded Palestinian territory since the faction came to power after winning general elections in 2006.
MADA documented a total of 48 violations by authorities in the Gaza Strip against media freedoms in 2016 in its annual report, which highlighted incidents of security forces inflicting â€ścertain types of tortureâ€ť against Palestinian journalists during their detentions.
A continuation of Palestinian authorities — both in Gaza and the West Bank, which is governed by the Fateh-led Palestinian Authority — â€śprosecuting journalists in relation to their publications on social media sites,â€ť was also reported.
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