GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Gaza journalist appealed a six-month prison term and fine Tuesday over her reporting on alleged corruption within the Hamas-run Health Ministry in a case that has drawn international condemnation of the coastal strip’s Islamic rulers.
Hajar Harb reported in 2016 that healthy people were paying doctors to help them circumvent the Israeli-Egyptian blockade by issuing medical referrals to hospitals abroad. She was sentenced and fined later that year and appeared before a Hamas-run court Tuesday, where the judge postponed her hearing on libel and slander charges until March.
“The harassment we face is not solely security. It is physical, psychological and is affecting our source of income,” she said outside the court complex. “No one knows where things are going in the coming sessions.”
On Monday, Amnesty International called Harb’s prosecution “an outrageous assault on media freedom.”
Journalists who gathered outside the court complex called for Harb’s acquittal.
Fathi Sabah, a journalist campaigning on her behalf, said the case marks the first time Hamas authorities have sued a journalist for their work since the Islamic militant group seized Gaza by force in 2007.
“This is a dangerous indicator of the deteriorating situation of journalists in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Hamas denies the charges leveled in her 2016 report and they sentenced her in absentia while she was receiving cancer treatment in Jordan.
Bakr Turkmani, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights, said those suspected of misconduct should be tried, not the journalists who unveil it.
Last year, Harb was fired from a local media production company after another investigation piece raised suspicion that Hamas authorities gave donated housing units designated for the poor to ineligible beneficiaries. “The company claimed the work harmed its relationship with the factions and the party,” Harb said.
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