Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:02 pm (KSA) 15:02 pm (GMT)

Palestinian agency shows world inside Gaza

Ramattan was only station showing live on-the-ground coverage of Gaza
Ramattan was only station showing live on-the-ground coverage of Gaza

Viewers watching the coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza may have wondered at the red flame logo that often appeared at the bottom of their television screens when live footage from inside Gaza was shown on CNN, BBC, Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera or any of several other satellite stations whose journalists were prevented by Israel from entering the strip.

Since the first moment Israeli airstrikes on Gaza began three weeks ago the Palestinian news agency Ramattan has been providing live on-the-ground coverage from Gaza, braving bombs, tanks and freezing temperatures to bring the world video from inside the enclave.

What started as a four-hour a day operation selling footage to others has grown into a 24-hour a day news agency broadcasting on three satellites with eight offices throughout the Middle East and websites in Arabic and English.

But it has not been easy. The agency’s 30 staff members have not left their desks or cameras since the war began on Dec. 27, working day and night in conditions that have only worsened since the Israeli ground invasion.

It is worth it

 I am proud to see Ramattan's name for 12 hours daily on channels like CNN, BBC, Al Arabiya, and Al-Jazeera. We have a gallery with 20 screens, all with our agency's name. I wish we had 100, 
Ramattan editor-in-chief Shodhi al-Kashef

Tanks stand just one kilometer (half a mile) from Ramattan’s office in Gaza City, The windows have been blown away by the bombings that have devastated the city’s infrastructure.

But it is worth it for editor-in-chief Shodhi al-Kashef.

"They took their reward 'in kind'," Kashef said of his dedicated staff. "They saw the whole world watching their work the moment they do it."

"I am proud to see Ramattan's name for 12 hours daily on channels like CNN, BBC, Al Arabiya, and Al-Jazeera. We have a gallery with 20 screens, all with our agency's name. I wish we had 100,” he told AlArabiya.net.

Ramattan means two peaks in Arabic, indicating that the agency offers news from the highest places and therefore the most truthful, said Kashef.

A group of journalists working for foreign news media started Ramattan in 1998 after noticing that nearly all the stories coming out of the Palestinian territories were written by Westerners, Kashef explained.

Ramattan’s coverage of the assassinations of resistance leaders like Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, in 2004 and Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi, its co-founder, gained it greater recognition.

Getting bigger

"We got bigger when we started offering coverage and reports to TV channels and in 2004 we decided establishing a news agency," he said. "I rented a channel on one of the satellites and started with broadcasting four hours a day."

But the going has not been easy as the Israeli blockade and offensive has made getting the basic tools needed to do journalism a challenge.

Kashef said Ramattan is prohibited from bringing recording tapes into Gaza although they are in dire need. This led many cameras to stop working. There are also restrictions on cables, which are necessary for live broadcast.

"Our resources are very limited. This makes going on very hard. Even the fuel for the generators we have to buy from the black market," he said.

But with the Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza domestic outlets like Ramattan are providing one of the few views into the territory of 1.5 million during a war that has left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and caused billions of dollars in damage.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid. Editing by Courtney C. Radsch).

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