The Attorney General of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Ahmad al-Maghni, said, in response to the recent detention of journalists Yousef al-Shayeb and Ismat Abdel Khaleq, that the PA has “no problem” arresting journalists.
Al-Shayeb is being investigated for "libel" and "defamation" and Abdul Khaliq for a number of comments he posted on Facebook accusing President Mahmoud Abbas of betrayal and calling for disbanding the PA. Tareq Khamis of Zaman Press was also briefly held on Sunday, the Ma’an News Agency reported.
In February, an official from the PA Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology accused a number of news sites of “broadcast[ing] sedition and lies to break up the structure of Palestinian society,” the Challah Hu Akbar blog reported.
“It is our right to defend ourselves against this malicious and suspicious campaign,” the official claimed. There is “no law in Palestine criminalizing this work.”
Al Maghni said that Shayeb’s report on corruption within the PA foreign ministry and French diplomatic mission “was an affront to journalism.”
“Any journalist is allowed to publish any information he wants to, after proving it with evidence rather than basing it on (rumors on) Facebook and other networking sites,” Al Maghni said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called for al-Shayeb's release, warning that the case will lead to self-censorship and undermine public trust in the media, the Ma’an News Agency reported.
"The protection of sources is universally accepted as an essential tenet of independent reporting," IFJ president Jim Boumelha said in a statement.
"Journalists the world over will be outraged that Shayeb has been sentenced for upholding such a basic principle. He has no case to answer and should be released immediately," he continued.