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PA arrests brothers of Palestinian journalist

Aug. 7, 2011 10:12 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2011 10:49 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Preventative Security forces raided the house of a Palestinian journalist in Nablus on Saturday and arrested two of her brothers in an apparent attempt to force her surrender.

Majdoline Hassouneh has refused a summons to appear for questioning about her work, and even posted a copy of the document on her Facebook page along with an explanation of her refusal to appear.

Hassouneh says she is an independent journalist who has no political affiliation. She told Ma’an the Palestinian Authority was using her brothers' arrests to pressure her to appear for questioning.

A Palestinian media rights group said the PA's interest in the journalist stems from her coverage of sit-in demonstrations held by the relatives of prisoners after politically motivated arrests.

In a statement, the Palestinian Media Association said the PA's ongoing prosecution and detention of journalists "amount to restrictions of fundamental freedoms and freedom of expression."

The targeting of Hassouneh and other journalists "requires a firm stand from all the media and their respective representatives to end such practices," the statement said.

Hassouneh's case is the latest in a string of arrests and acts of intimidation against journalists.

In January, a PA court in Bethlehem charged TV reporter Mamdouh Hamamreh with libel and slander for allegedly insulting President Mahmoud Abbas on the former's Facebook page.

Human Rights Watch says the Palestinian Authority's harassment and targeting of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

An increasing number of abuses against journalists takes place in the context of virtual impunity for serious human rights violations by PA security service officials, the rights group maintains.

According to a report Saturday by The Jerusalem Post, an English-language Israeli daily, the PA has recently banned local media from publishing findings of the Independent Commission for Human Rights.

Under the pretext of promoting a unity deal signed in May, the report said, the PA banned reporting the commission's findings that Palestinians were subjected to "systematic" rights abuses in 2010.

An April 2011 report by HRW called on authorities to hold their forces to account for systematic, severe abuses and urged foreign donors to condition aid to security forces on concrete accountability measures.

The United States provided $350 million to the PA for security and program assistance in 2010, in addition to $150 million in direct budgetary support, while the European Union gave the PA more than $315 million.
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