Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas closed the offices of three media companies, including the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television and Palestinian news agency Maan, on Thursday, employees and a Hamas spokesman said.
Al Arabiya and Maan employees said Hamas security men had arrived at their offices with an order from the attorney general to shut down immediately and a Hamas spokesman said the step was temporary, until an investigation was concluded.
“The attorney general received complaints, including from the Ministry of Information, that Al Arabiya and Maan reported false news, fabrications and lies,” said Hamas government spokesman Ehab al-Ghsain.
Ghsain did not single out any news reports, but Hamas officials have in the past few days criticized coverage by Al Arabiya and Maan of the Islamist group’s tense relations with Egypt’s new rulers as “damaging” to the Palestinian people.
The ousting by the Egyptian army of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi by the army has dealt a blow to Hamas, which is an offshoot of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian military has cracked down on tunnels used to smuggle goods and arms into Gaza from Egypt since Mursi’s fall, choking the flow of goods into the Israeli-blockaded enclave.
Hamas has rejected suggestions that Gaza militants might be helping their counterparts in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where Egyptian security sources say radical groups have been launching almost daily attacks on Egyptian forces.
Apart from Al Arabiya and Maan, Ghsain said the office of a Gaza-based production company called Lens was shut for “collaboration with Zionist media”. An employee of Lens said it had been contracted to report for a new news channel based in Israel.
Maan is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a rival of Hamas, heads the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the territory.
The Palestinian Authority’s Information Ministry condemned Hamas’s measures as “a blow to the freedom of expression”.