19 de julio de 2007

About kidnapped journalists

The release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston earlier this month after 114 days in captivity in Gaza made headlines around the world and was hailed internationally as a victory for press freedom.

During Johnston’s nearly four months in captivity, calls for his release came from world leaders and human rights organizations alike. Over two hundred thousand people signed an online petition calling for him to be freed.

But perhaps the most poignant of Johnston’s supporters came from deep within the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who has been jailed without charge at Guantanamo for the past five and a half years, sent a letter via his lawyer calling for Johnston’s release. He wrote: "While the United States has kidnapped me and held me for years on end, this is not a lesson that Muslims should copy."

In comparison to journalist Alan Johnston, Sami al-Haj’s story of abduction has been largely ignored by the corporate media and kept out of the global spotlight. A Sudanese national, al-Haj was working as a cameraman for the Arabic TV network Al Jazeera when he was detained on December 15th, 2001 at a Pakistani town on the border with Afghanistan. After being transferred to US custody he was flown to Bagram Air Base. Six months later he was flown to Guantanamo Bay. He was been imprisoned there without charge ever since.

Another journalist jailed by US forces without charge has also been largely kept outside of the spotlight. Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was detained by US forces in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006. To this day, he is still being held at a prison camp in Iraq by U.S. military officials who have neither formally charged him with a crime nor made public any evidence of wrongdoing. The U.S. military claims it is justified in continuing to imprison him merely because it considers him a security threat.

7 de julio de 2007

Gaza Collapse

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, an Israeli human rights group is warning the blockade on Gaza threatens to destroy Gaza’s already-depleted commercial sector and encourage local support for violent extremism. According to Gisha, three-quarters of Gaza’s factories have closed in just three weeks due to to a ban on importing or exporting goods. The price for raw materials has risen by up to thirty-four percent. Thirty-thousand people, or one-tenth of the workforce, are expected to lose their jobs. And in a further setback the local UN relief groups are expected to announce today an end to all construction projects in Gaza because Israel won’t allow the import of cement. An Israeli military official involved in Gaza policy described Israel’s strategy there as “no development, no progress, no humanitarian crisis.”