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Fayyad asks attorney general to file suit against Al-Jazeera

July 15, 2009 2:10 P.M. (Updated: July 17, 2009 10:12 A.M.)
Ramallah - Ma’an - The Palestinian Authority will go ahead with a suit against the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television after they shut down their West Bank offices on charges of “incitement and false information.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Wednesday night that he commissioned Attorney General Ahmed Al-Mughni to take the legal procedures necessary to prosecute Al-Jazeera. Analysts say the Tuesday report with comments by senior Fatah member Farouq Qaddoumi, who accused President Abbas of involvement in an alleged plot to kill Yasser Arafat was the final impetus for the suit.

In a statement Fayyad said his government would continue to ensure freedom of the press in Palestine but would at the same time take action “against anything that may cause discrimination among factions” and deepen the national division.

Qaddoumi, a Fatah member, will not likely be able to participate in the historic Sixth Fatah Conference, which will take place in the West Bank in August. The decision to hold the conference, the first since the 1980s, in the West Bank was a controversial one, as many members will have difficulty entering the area, whose borders are controlled by Israel. Qaddoumi’s comments were seen by some as an attempt to jostle for political power.

Responding to the decision, the Palestinian Media Forum (PMF) called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to reverse the decision describing it as restricting freedom of press.

“The Palestinian information ministry should honor Al-Jazeera teams for their efforts in exposing Israeli crimes in the Palestinian territories rather than shutting down its offices just as Israel did before,” a statement by the PMF said.

The statement pointed out that Al-Jazeera was the only station to expose “the false democracy which some Arab countries claim.”

The closure of Al-Jazeera offices, the PMF asserted, was a political decision which has nothing to do with the professional performance of Al-Jazeera teams.

For his part, Fayyad said Al-Jazeera TV would not be permitted to work in Palestine under Law 9, passed in 1995.

Article 14 of chapter two of the Basic Law (1995) states:

Every person shall have right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression and publication of his opinion either orally, in writing or in the form of art or through any other form of expression, subject to observance of restrictions imposed by law for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals.

The Palestinian Information Ministry said in a statement responding to the incident, that, “Al-Jazeera has always dedicated a wide portion of its broadcasts to incitement against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. Despite repeated requests to be impartial in its coverage of Palestinian affairs, the station continued to incite against the PLO and the PA. The latest false news was aired yesterday.”

At the same time, the PA stated commitment to freedom of the press in Palestine. “We expect all media outlets operating in Palestine to go about their work in a way that does not contradict the Palestinian national interest and rule of law,” the statement read.

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