PA arrests man for Facebook anti-corruption drive

Arrest of Jamal Abu Rihan latest in PA clampdown against Facebook users, bloggers, journalists who criticize leadership.

Man on computer 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Man on computer 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
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.
Abu 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 details.
In the past two weeks, PA security forces have arrested three journalists on the basis of the controversial “extending one’s tongue” law.
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 trial.
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 Facebook page.
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.