PA releases journalists who 'leaked sensitive information'

PA releases five journalists arrested under new electronic crimes law.

Elad Benari ,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

The Palestinian Authority (PA) decided on Monday to release five journalists who were arrested last week, their lawyer said, according to AFP.

The five, including from Hamas-linked media, had been arrested on accusations of “leaking sensitive information to enemy groups,” the news agency said.

Three of the five were freed earlier Monday, with the others expected to be released later in the day, the lawyer said.

“The relevant courts decided to free five journalists and all journalists are supposed to be released,” Alaa Freijat, lawyer for the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told AFP.

The five journalists were arrested under the PA’s new electronic crimes law, which has been criticized by rights groups who say it restricts criticism of officials on social and traditional media.

The law was passed by edict without prior public debate last month, and the criticism of it has increased in recent days. The PA insists the law was passed to combat electronic crimes and denies the purpose of the order was to abuse Abbas's opponents.

One of the journalists who were arrested worked for Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV. The releases of the five came a day after Hamas freed a journalist in the Gaza Strip from the PA-linked Palestine TV.

Two months ago, Abbas blocked at least eleven Palestinian Arab news websites, including the sites of the Palestinian Information Center and the Shehab News Agency, which is affiliated with Hamas, as well as the “Voice of Fatah”, which is known to be close to his longtime political rival, Mohammed Dahlan.

In 2012, Abbas also censored media outlets affiliated with his rivals. He subsequently ordered the censorship to be lifted after coming under fire for it.