Lawsuits, complaints lead PA to cut satirical TV series

Palestinian prosecutor-general tells Ma'an 'Watan ala Watar' (Nation on a String) crosses "red lines"; producer cries violation of democracy.

TV television off air static_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
TV television off air static_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Palestinian prosecutor-general announced Tuesday night that the satirical television series Watan ala Watar (Homeland on a String) will no longer air on the Palestinian Authority-run Palestine TV channel.
Prosecutor-General Ahmad Al-Mughni told Palestinian news channel Ma'an that the decision was made because the show, broadcast during Ramadan, "is full of mistakes" and "meaningless," adding that it had crossed "red lines" in its impersonations of Palestinian leaders.   
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"There are people and personalities that can't be imitated in any way," Ma'an quoted Mughni as saying.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) board and a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, described the decision as a "dangerous precedent in the history of the Palestinian Authority".
"The prosecutor-general has appointed himself as the one responsible for artistic works, becoming 'the artistic authority' in the country," he told Al-Ayyam newspaper.
"We are facing a great disaster which violates the most basic of freedoms."
He said an appeal would be lodged against the decision.
The beleaguered Watan ala Wara is no stranger to controversy, and the official television station became legally liable for offensive episodes broadcast during Ramadan.
Palestinian Authority police commanders sued the station itself after an episode aired which seemed to show police officers drunk.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, complained that the episode, which is being aired during the holy month of Ramadan, depicted the policemen as “vulgar and common," adding "This is degrading for the policemen.”
“We support criticism and freedom of expression, but only in a positive way,” Damiri was quoted by the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper as saying.
The deputy head of the Physicians Union, Shawki Sabha, also said that his union had filed a complaint with the prosecutor-general against Palestine TV for airing the satire.
Sabha said that the union has determined that one of the recent satire shows had humiliated Palestinian physicians working in hospitals. He said that the union was also suing the station for libel.
For the last three years, "A Nation on a String" has been broadcast during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, when families traditionally gather to watch drama series and other TV shows after breaking fast at sundown.