security forces on Monday arrested Palestinian journalist George Canawati,
director of Bethlehem Radio 2000, for reporting about a leaflet distributed by
Fatah’s armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The PA prosecutor-general
ordered the arrest of Canawati for 48 hours.
Canawati is accused of
reporting on his radio station about the leaflet, which attacked Bethlehem Mayor
Vera Baboun, and called for her resignation.
The leaflet was distributed
in Bethlehem following allegations that Baboun, the first female mayor of the
city, had banned Palestinian girls from reciting a poem that included the
phrase, “Islam is our religion.”
Baboun, who was elected last late last
year as mayor, was also accused of banning girls from performing at a local
event while wearing the hijab.
Although Baboun has denied the
allegations, saying they were part of a smear campaign aimed at defaming her,
many Muslim residents staged protests in Bethlehem, calling for her
Fatah later denied any link to the leaflet, saying it was a
The campaign against Baboun reached its peak two weeks ago
when unidentified assailants vandalized her car.
The mayor filed a
complaint with the PA authorities against those who were inciting against
PA security forces detained four suspects, including municipal
council member Maher Canawati, who is related to the journalist who was arrested
The arrest of the journalist drew sharp criticism from the
Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank, which demanded his immediate
Hassan Abdel Jawwad, a senior member of the syndicate, said that
Canawati was arrested only because of his journalistic work. He said that the
arrest was in violation of an agreement between the PA and the syndicate,
according to which a journalist would be arrested only if convicted of a crime
or on order of a judge.
The journalist’s lawyer, Osama Abu Zakyeh, said
that his client was arrested only for reporting about the Fatah leaflet. He said
that his Canawati has refused to reveal the identity of the party that delivered
the leaflet to the radio station.
This was not the first time that
Canawati had been arrested by the PA security forces. In 2010, he was arrested
for five days by the PA’s General Intelligence Service for reporting about
internal tensions inside Fatah.