Hamas police in Gaza beat and detained journalists who took part in a sit-in protest Monday in support of the upheaval in Egypt. The police also compelled the journalists to sign a paper promising not to take part in unlicensed rallies, the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency reported.
The police initially wanted the journalists and others who were detained to pledge that they would "abide by law, order and conventions." Tahseen Al-Astal, a member of the secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists' Union, told Ma'an that the journalists refused to sign such a commitment, saying they broke no laws.
Six journalists were assaulted by police during Monday's sit-in protest, Al-Astal said. He quoted testimony from Al-Ayyam reporter Asma Al-Ghoul, who said police hit her on the head and face, and pulled her by the hair.
Freelancer Fares Al-Ghoul was briefly detained, Al-Astal said. Prizewinning writer and film director Razan Al-Madhoun was also attacked, as was TV presenter Rami Murad. Blogger Neda Dhulfaqar and journalist Nazek Abu Rahmeh also said they were beaten, the union official said.
Since protests tend to depend on media presence to be effective, it appears Hamas targeted the journalists in order to prevent rallies from taking place and to keep the ones that occur from being reported.
It is not clear why Hamas is so concerned about preventing protests in favor of the Egyptian upheaval. One theory is that Hamas wants to assist the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in keeping a low profile for the time being. According to this logic, the rebellion has a better chance of success if it is not perceived as being Islamic in nature. Another possibility is fear that the protests might turn into demonstrations against repression in Gaza and expose the dictatorial, Islamist rule there for what it is.