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      PA Forced to Backtrack on Closing Christian TV

      The Palestinian Authority government has rescinded its decision to shut down its only Christian television station in Judea and Samaria.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 3/25/2010, 9:24 AM / Last Update: 3/25/2010, 10:17 AM

      (illustrative)

      The Palestinian Authority government has rescinded its decision to shut down its only Christian television station, based in Bethlehem, following strong criticism worldwide. The move was welcomed by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

      However, Samir Qumsieh, the owner and general manager of Al-Mahed “Nativity” TV, now says he will not resume broadcasts until the PA government apologizes for having closed him down.

      Last week the PA shut down Al-Mahed after 14 years of broadcasting on the pretext of operating without a license. The PA also shut down several other private radio and TV stations throughout the territories, in a crackdown apparently aimed at controlling the media.

      The government closures were allegedly temporary one-month suspensions intended to force the station owners to organize their finances and arrange their licenses.

      Qumsieh slammed the decision in a letter to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, calling it “unjustified.” He pointed out to media that the move had been timed to coincide with the eve of several major Christian holidays.

      There has been increased harassment of Christian Arabs by Muslims [click here for details - ed.] in the Palestinian Authority in recent years, especially in towns such as Bethlehem, a central point of worship in the Christian religion. The TV station, located about 350 meters from Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, has for years promoted itself as the “only Christian voice” in the otherwise Muslim PA media.