Palestinians ban reporters from rally, cancel talk show, arrest newspaper editor in media crackdown

Friday, October 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ In a media crackdown linked to growing internal strife, the Palestinian Authority detained a newspaper editor and barred media coverage of a rally by Islamic militants who have been protesting U.S. attacks on Afghanistan.

Also Friday, the host of a political talk show on Palestinian TV, who had criticized a bloody police crackdown on an anti-U.S. rally earlier this week, said Friday his program was taken off the air.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, tensions have been high between Islamic militants and the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority has tried to distance itself from the prime suspect in the attacks on the United States, Osama bin Laden, and to suppress coverage of anti-U.S. marches often organized by Islamic militants.

In the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, the militant Islamic Jihad group planned to hold a memorial service Friday for a leader killed in a 1986 clash with Israeli forces. The Palestinian police chief, Ghazi Jabali, on Friday declared the camp off limits to journalists.

Palestinian officials have seized photos and footage of anti-U.S. rallies on several occasions recently. They banned foreign reporters from Gaza for two days this week to prevent coverage of the aftermath of clashes between police and demonstrators that killed two civilians and wounded dozens more.

Also Friday, relatives of Ala Siftawi, the editor of the Islamic Jihad's newspaper, ``Independence,'' said he had been detained by Palestinian police. In an article this week, Siftawi criticized the police crackdown on demonstrators.

Hassan Kashef, host of the Palestinian talk show ``Face to Face,'' who has also criticized the police clampdown, said Friday his show has been pulled off the air.

Kashef, who also writes a column in a newspaper closely associated with the Palestinian Authority, has demanded in interviews that Jabali, the police chief, be put on trial in connection with the two deaths.

``I hope this decision will not be a campaign to harm the freedom of speech in Palestine, but frankly, I am not optimistic,'' Kashef said.

Palestinian officials were not available for comment on the detention of the editor, the closure of the refugee camp and the cancelation of the talk show.

President Bush, meanwhile, reiterated his support for Palestinian statehood. Bush told a news conference Wednesday that he believed ``there ought to be a Palestinian state, the boundaries of which would be negotiated by the parties.''

Israel said Friday there was no point in discussing new initiatives as long as Mideast violence continued. Israel has accused Arafat of not doing enough to rein in militants, such as arresting those suspected of attacking Israelis.

``Therefore, under the present circumstances, there is no place for discussing this or that political plan,'' Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh told Israel Radio.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Ziad Abu-Zayyad said Palestinians ``fully support President Bush's statement.'' He said the Palestinians recognize a ``two-state solution'' with a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza.

Also Friday, the Israeli military said an officer was sentenced to 14 days in prison for tying a Palestinian to the hood of his jeep. The military said the officer and his soldiers were surrounded by rioting Palestinians a few days ago in the West Bank village of Zabra, which is under joint Israeli-Palestinian control.

The military spokesman's office said the force was in danger and could have opened fire. The officer used ``faulty judgment'' in using a Palestinian as a human shield to extricate his forces, the military said.

Additionally, Israeli police said they were investigating the possibility that the wounding of two Palestinians late Thursday was a Jewish revenge attack. The Palestinian car was hit by gunfire in the West Bank and overturned.