Palestinian news agency shuts down, citing government "obstruction"
The leading Palestinian news agency Ramattan shut down Monday, charging the West Bank-based administration of President Mahmoud Abbas had been "obstructing" its work, dpa reported .
Ramattan said in a statement that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Interior Ministry had been harassing its staff, preventing them from entering Abbas' presidential headquarters to do their work and that police had arrested several staff members.
The agency, based in Ramallah and Gaza City, is independent and privately owned, but Abbas' bitter rival, the radical Islamic Hamas movement ruling Gaza, often uses its offices in Gaza City, and in the past also its Ramallah headquarters, for holding news conferences.
Some officials in Abbas' West Bank administration are said to be displeased that Ramattan has been giving Hamas an unlimited platform for voicing its opinions.
Acting Palestinian Information Minister Riad Malki, however, said the news agency's refusal to pay overdue fees was the real reason for the government's action against it.
"Once it pays its dues and gets the proper licence to open a media office, there will be nothing to prevent it from operating," he said.
Ramattan countered that the Palestinian caretaker government in Ramallah demands large amounts of money in current and back fees. It charged the demanded fees were higher than other media had to pay and more than it could afford.
It said it had decided to suspend all its operations in both the West Bank and Gaza to protest the Palestinian government actions.
Ramattan, owned by Palestinian businessmen, mainly provides live television footage to international and Arab media organizations subscribed to it. It has been operating in the Palestinian territories for some 10 years.