20 April 2011

Italian journalist kidnapped and killed in Gaza

Vittorio Arrigoni (left)
Vittorio Arrigoni (left)
Hamas officials have found the body of an Italian journalist and activist who was kidnapped last week in Gaza, report the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and the International Press Institute (IPI). Vittorio Arrigoni was affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian rights group, and reported on Palestinian issues for the Italian newspaper "Il Manifesto" and online paper Peacereporter, and also wrote a blog.

Arrigoni was kidnapped on 14 April by a militant Islamist group, Jihad Salafist, which released a YouTube video saying that they would kill Arrigoni unless Hamas released a number of political prisoners. But before the 15 April evening deadline had passed, Hamas announced that Arrigoni's body had been found.

The last foreigner kidnapped in Gaza was BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was captured in March 2007 and held for four months. He was released without violence after negotiations between Hamas and his kidnappers, who belonged to a radical group calling itself the Army of Islam. Since then, there has been a "history of bad blood" between the rival Islamist groups, IPI reports.

But journalists working in Gaza and the West Bank have frequently complained of attacks and harassment by Palestinian security forces, from both Hamas and Fatah, the political group that dominates the Palestinian National Authority and has de facto control over the West Bank. A new report by Human Rights Watch, "No News is Good News", found that since Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the majority of abuses against journalists in both the West Bank and Gaza have been related to tensions between Hamas and Fatah.

Human Rights Watch documents scores of cases in which Palestinian security forces tortured, beat and arbitrarily detained journalists, confiscated their equipment and barred them from leaving the West Bank and Gaza.

Last month, Hamas violently dispersed protests in Gaza calling for an end to the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. They also targeted the media: the offices of Reuters, Japan TV, CNN and other news agencies were attacked, and individual reporters received death threats, said MADA and Human Rights Watch.

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Italian journalist and activist reportedly killed in Gaza 15 April 2011
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