Gaza journalist appeals prison sentence after Al-Araby TV investigation into 'Hamas corruption'
A Palestinian journalist who exposed endemic corruption inside the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza Strip for Al-Araby TV appealed on Tuesday a six-month prison sentence and fine.
Hajar Harb appeared in a Gaza court on Tuesday to appeal charges over her 2016 investigation, which revealed the health ministry was profiting by arranging illegal medical transfers out of the Gaza Strip for people who did not need treatment.
Her hearing on libel and slander charges was postponed 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, according to AP.
"No one knows where things are going in the coming sessions."
Journalists gathered outside the court complex and 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.
Harb's investigation was aired by London-based Al-Araby TV in June 2016.
Following its broadcast, she was held by police for questioning at least four times between June and July 2016.
The interrogation sessions lasted up to four hours, during which she was subjected to verbal abuse and threatened.
"[I] was treated as a criminal not a journalist [who] made an investigative report that is very important to this country," Harb told Amnesty International, who have called for the charges to be dropped.
Crackdown on Palestinian freedom of expression escalated dangerously in recent months.
Amnesty International has previously criticised both Gaza-based Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority [PA] in the West Bank for their clampdown on dissent.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah.
Both Hamas and the PA continue to crackdown on human rights and press freedoms in areas under their control.
With the increase in arrests against dissent in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians continue to suffer not just at the hands of the Israeli occupation, but also by the rival authorities.
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