Gaza reporter appeals Hamas prison sentence, fine
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Gaza reporter appeals Hamas prison sentence, fine

Judge postpones till March hearing for Hajar Harb, accused of false news, defamation, causing strife and being an impostor

Palestinian journalist Hajar Harb stands in front of the courts complex in Gaza City on February 26, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Palestinian journalist Hajar Harb stands in front of the courts complex in Gaza City on February 26, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

GAZA CITY — A Gaza journalist appealed Tuesday her six-month prison term and fine over her reporting on alleged corruption within the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hajar Harb appeared before a Hamas-run court in Gaza City, where the judge postponed the hearing until March.

Fathi Sabah, a journalist campaigning on her behalf, says it’s the first time Hamas authorities have prosecuted a journalist for their work since the Islamist terror group group seized Gaza by force in 2007.

A 2016 report for al-Araby TV by Harb highlighted misconduct at the Hamas-run health ministry, where she alleged healthy people paid doctors to issue referrals to hospitals abroad, in order to circumvent Israeli and Egyptian travel restrictions on the Gaza Strip.

Illustrative – The European Gaza Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip. (YouTube screenshot)

Two doctors filed a complaint against her and she was charged by authorities with the publication of false news, defamation, causing strife and being an impostor.

On Monday, Amnesty International called on Hamas to drop all charges against Harb for doing her work as a journalist.

“The prosecution of Hajar Harb is an outrageous assault on media freedom,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. “The authorities in Gaza are blatantly seeking to punish her for exposing corruption within the Hamas administration. The authorities must drop all the charges against her immediately.”

The rights organization Reporters Without Borders scores the Palestinians 134th out of 180 countries in the world ranked for press freedom, with a high weighting factor for its abuse of journalists.

“Interrogations and detention without any charge are part of the price that journalists pay for the political rivalry between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories,” the organization noted in its 2017 report.

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