Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested over the weekend
a Palestinian blogger who launched a Facebook campaign under the title “The
people want an end to corruption.”
The arrest of Jamal Abu Rihan is part
of a clampdown by the PA government against Facebook users, bloggers and
journalists who criticize the PA leadership or expose corruption.
Rihan was arrested by the PA’s Preventive Security Service, whose officers also
raided and searched his home in the village of Jiftlik in the Jericho area,
Palestinian journalists told The Jerusalem Post.
They said that Abu Rihan
had been working for the PA attorney-general’s office in the West Bank before he
was suspended and subsequently arrested for launching the Facebook campaign. He
is affiliated with the small Palestinian Democratic Union, Fida, which was
founded by PLO Secretary- General Yasser Abed Rabbo.
A PA security source
said that Abu Rihan, who has been ordered held in custody for 15 days, will be
charged with defying the PA and its leaders under a 50-year-old law enacted by
Jordan, which held the West Bank at the time, that bans what is called
“extending one’s tongue” against the leadership.
Voicing outrage over the arrest, scores of Palestinian journalists staged a demonstration in the center
of Ramallah over the weekend to demand the release of Abu Rihan. The journalists
said the ongoing crackdown on Facebook users, bloggers and journalists in the
West Bank was aimed at intimidating the press and deterring others from
criticizing PA leaders.
“The arrest [of Abu Rihan] is designed to disrupt
the anti-corruption campaign on Facebook,” said Basim Qaddoura. “In whose
interest are they trying to hide corruption?” Another journalist accused the PA
of “fighting against those who are exposing corruption instead of dealing with
those involved in corruption.”
Fida, the group with which Abu Rihan is
affiliated, accused PA Attorney-General Ahmed al- Mughni of seeking to “settle
scores” with the blogger for “personal reasons.” The party did not give further
In the past two weeks, PA security forces have arrested three
journalists on the basis of the controversial “extending one’s tongue”
Youssef Shayeb, a correspondent for a Jordanian newspaper, was
arrested after he published a report that exposed corruption in the Palestinian
diplomatic mission in France. Last week he was released on $7,000 bail pending
Shayeb was arrested following a complaint by PA Foreign Minister
Riad Malki, the head of the mission and his deputy. Malki is also suing the
journalist for $6 million in damages.
While Shayeb was still in
detention, PA security officers arrested journalist, blogger and university
lecturer Ismat Abdel Khalik for insulting PA President Mahmoud Abbas on her
Abdel Khalik, a single mother of two, remains in prison.
She is suspected of having denounced Abbas as a traitor and fascist, and calling
for the dismantling of the PA.
Palestinian journalist Tarek Khamis, who
used Facebook to criticize the arrest of the woman, also found himself in
detention last week. Khamis, who works for a Palestinian news agency in
Ramallah, was interrogated for six hours by Preventive Security Service officers
before he was released on bail.