Palestinian Authority police arrest Bethlehem journalist George Canawati

Director of Radio Bethlehem 2000 complains he was physically assaulted before and during interrogation.

PA Police 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA Police 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority police on Sunday arrested Bethlehem journalist and broadcaster George Canawati on suspicion of “slander” and “insults.”
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.
He complained that PA policemen physically assaulted him before and during his interrogation.
The court ordered him remanded into custody for 48 hours.
Canawati was arrested at his home in Beit Sahur late Sunday.
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 society.”
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.