PA arrests another reporter over Facebook post

Tarek Khamis accused of criticizing the PA’s current clampdown on Palestinian journalists in the West Bank.

PA Police 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA Police 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank Sunday night arrested another Palestinian journalist for posting a critical comment on Facebook.
Agents belonging to the PA’s Preventive Security Service in Ramallah arrested Tarek Khamis, who works for the Palestinian Zaman Press news agency, for criticizing the PA’s current clampdown on Palestinian journalists in the West Bank, a Palestinian journalist told The Jerusalem Post.
He said that Khamis was taken into custody after he wrote a comment that referred specifically to the recent arrest of female journalist and blogger Esmat Abdel Khalik.
She was arrested last week after she posted derogatory remarks about PA President Mahmoud Abbas on her Facebook page.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, said that Abdel Khalik was being held on charges of “extending her tongue” against the elected president of the PA.
Damiri said that the journalist called Abbas a “traitor” and “fascist.” She is also accused of calling for the dismantling of the PA.
Abdel Khalik is being held in solitary confinement pending her trial.
Khamis was arrested after he posted a comment on his Facebook page that criticized Abdel Khalik’s arrest.
“If calling for the dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority is an extension of the tongue, then let us all extend our tongues.”
A third journalist, Youssef Al-Shayeb, was also arrested last week for exposing corruption in the Palestinian diplomatic mission in France.
Last week a PA court ordered him remanded into custody for 15 days after he refused to reveal his sources.
He was arrested following a complaint lodged by PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki and the head of the diplomatic mission in France.
Malki accused the journalist of slander and defamation, saying he had committed a sin against journalism and should be punished for publishing the controversial article.
However, following strong protests by Palestinian journalists and human rights organizations, the PA released Al-Shayeb on Monday on $7,000 bail.
Al-Shayeb had gone on hunger strike while in PA detention.
Damiri denied claims by some Palestinian journalists that the PA had set up a special force to monitor social media networks in the Palestinian territories.
He said that the PA security forces were only carrying out the orders of the courts and attorney-general’s office.
The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information said that the PA’s crackdown on journalists was a “dangerous precedent and an assault on freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories.”
“Journalists are entitled to express their opinions without fear of being imprisoned or harassed,” the Cairo-based group said in a statement.
Commenting on the clampdown, Palestinian journalist Adel Samara said: “This is a totalitarian regime. What would happen when we fulfill our dream of having our own state? We will all be sitting with Al-Shayeb [in prison].”
“Imagine what would have happened had Al-Shayeb been arrested in Algiers or China,” Samara continued.
“The West would have erupted and many articles would have been written about him.”