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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Freedom of the press, PA-style: Reporter arrested for "slander"

From Ma'an:
A Palestinian court has extended the remand of a journalist arrested Monday over allegations of slander and defamation, officials in Ramallah said Wednesday.

The Palestinian Authority will continue to hold Yousef al-Shayeb, who was arrested Monday, for another 15 days, the court ruled. He has not yet been charged with a crime.

The journalist was first questioned in late January over his reporting on allegations against the Palestinian diplomatic delegation in France, the Palestinian National Fund and the foreign minister. Al-Shayeb's arrest on Monday followed a complaint filed by Foreign Minister Riyad Malki and Hael al-Fahoum, the envoy in Paris.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on Wednesday organized a sit-in strike to protest the arrest.

The union also expressed astonishment at the government's demand that al-Shayeb pay $6 million in restitution.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Palestine 153 out of 179 countries on its latest press freedom index, down three places from last year.

This latest arrest came days before the Palestinian Authority was set to unveil a prize called the "Press Freedom Award." The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate is calling on journalists to boycott the award.
Hey, cut the PA some slack. The definition of Arab moderation is comparing it to Syria, so by that standard they are stellar.

More seriously, the danger of governmental clampdown on press freedoms has serious ramifications. The world is deprived of any objective news from the "moderate" PA, which means that the public perception of the dictatorial gang that runs the PA is completely at odds with the truth. This false perception filters through the public and Western governments. Since Israel has a robust free press, all its warts are revealed and amplified (and, often, fabricated - see a classic example from yesterday at 972mag.) At the same time, the PA's corruption and crimes are largely unreported. The cumulative effect is that people think that the PA is a modern democracy that treats its citizens with respect and the rule of law - when it is in fact a dictatorship run by a corrupt, unelected liar and his handpicked cronies.