Rights group calls on Hamas to cancel reporter’s Gaza trial

Rights group calls on Hamas to cancel reporter’s Gaza trial

Journalist exposed misconduct at Hamas-run health ministry; Amnesty International calls her prosecution ‘an outrageous assault on media freedom’

Reporter Hajar Harb (YouTube screenshot)
Reporter Hajar Harb (YouTube screenshot)

GAZA — A leading human rights group on Monday called on Gaza’s Hamas rulers to cancel the trial of a Palestinian journalist who exposed government corruption.

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.

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.

“The prosecution of Hajar Harb is an outrageous assault on media freedom. 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,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“It is deeply alarming that Hajar Harb is facing six months in jail simply for doing her job. If her conviction on trumped up charges is upheld it would have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Gaza.”

A Hamas court sentenced Harb to six months in prison and fined her NIS 1,000 ($277). She has appealed the ruling and a hearing will be held on Tuesday.

Rights groups have charged Hamas’s judiciary with issuing biased rulings. The Islamist faction wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in a brief but bloody civil war in 2007.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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