Palestinian Authority police on Sunday arrested Bethlehem journalist and
broadcaster George Canawati on suspicion of “slander” and
Canawati, director of Radio Bethlehem 2000, appeared on Monday
in court with a black eye and torn shirt. He announced that he had gone on a
hunger-strike in protest against his arrest and beating.
that PA policemen physically assaulted him before and during his
The court ordered him remanded into custody for 48
Canawati was arrested at his home in Beit Sahur late
Eyewitnesses described the arrest as “violent.” Policemen also
searched his home before leading him away.
Luay Zreikat, a spokesman for
the PA police, said the broadcaster had been arrested on instructions from the
Bethlehem prosecutor for “slander and abuse.”
Zreikat said Canawati
committed the alleged offense during his weekly radio program, which is
broadcast every Thursday.
Palestinian journalists said he was arrested
after making derogatory remarks against the commander of the Bethlehem police
force, Omar Shalabi.
Canawati has criticized other senior PA officials,
including Bethlehem governor Abdel Fattah Hamayel, leading to his interrogation
and detention on a number of occasions.
Mohamed Abu Arkoub, a journalist
specializing in media freedom in the PA, condemned Canawati’s latest arrest as a
breach of freedom of expression.
He also took issue with the PA security
forces for the way they carried out the arrest.
“Why do they have to raid
and search the home of a journalist in a way that degrades the profession of
journalism?” Abu Arkoub asked. “This shows that there is no political will to
consolidate and respect freedom of expression in Palestinian
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate also condemned the arrest
of Canawati as a breach of freedom of expression.
Earlier this year, PA
police arrested Canawati for reporting about a Fatah leaflet that attacked
Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun. In 2011 he was arrested for “slander and
defamation” after he criticized the medical services in his city.