Palestinian journalist won’t be jailed over report exposing Gaza corruption
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Palestinian journalist won’t be jailed over report exposing Gaza corruption

Court overturns six-month prison sentence and fine against Hajar Harb on appeal; she had accused doctors of penning false medical reports

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)

A Palestinian journalist was on Monday acquitted on appeal over an investigative report about corruption in the Gaza Strip, Amnesty International and a campaign group said.

In a 2016 report for Al-Araby TV, Hajar Harb alleged that doctors were writing false medical reports to let people leave Gaza for treatment, one of the few reasons Israel allows Palestinians out of the blockaded strip controlled by the Hamas terror group.

In October that year, two doctors launched legal proceedings accusing Harb of defamation and “publishing false information,” according to Amnesty International.

The 34-year-old was sentenced to six months in prison and fined, but the appeals court overruled the decision, Fathi Sabah, head of a group supporting Harb, told AFP.

The appeals court in Gaza “acquitted journalist Hajar Harb of all charges and closed her file,” he said.

“This represents not just a victory for Hajar but for freedom of the press,” he added.

Amnesty said Harb had been questioned by police at least four times following her report, but welcomed the decision of the court.

“It is really good news that Hajar Harb was acquitted today, she was standing a trial that should not have taken place to begin with,” Saleh Higazi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, told AFP.

“We hope that the Gaza authorities take this opportunity to signal that they are serious about freedom of expression and the press.”

In 2018, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms recorded 77 violations of press freedom in the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank and 37 such cases in Gaza.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007 and has recently cracked down violently on street protests by Gazans who complain of poverty, unemployment and a lack of services in the enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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