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Ramallah court extends arrest of Palestinian reporter

March 28, 2012 6:22 P.M. (Updated: March 30, 2012 12:52 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian court has extended the remand of a journalist arrested Monday over allegations of slander and defamation, officials in Ramallah said Wednesday.

The Palestinian Authority will continue to hold Yousef al-Shayeb, who was arrested Monday, for another 15 days, the court ruled. He has not yet been charged with a crime.

The journalist was first questioned in late January over his reporting on allegations against the Palestinian diplomatic delegation in France, the Palestinian National Fund and the foreign minister. Al-Shayeb's arrest on Monday followed a complaint filed by Foreign Minister Riyad Malki and Hael al-Fahoum, the envoy in Paris.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on Wednesday organized a sit-in strike to protest the arrest.

The syndicate expressed dismay over al-Shayeb's detention, particularly the general prosecution's refusal to allow a delegation representing the union to visit the journalist.

“We respect sovereignty of law and the decisions taken by the judiciary and the prosecution, but on the condition that the syndicate is not deprived of its right to take care of journalists and make sure all procedures against them are in line with the law,” a statement said.

As a body looking after journalists and defending their rights, the union is entitled by law to visit al-Shayeb, it said.

The union also expressed astonishment at the government's demand that al-Shayeb pay $6 million in restitution.

The statement pointed out that President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, have claimed on multiple occasions that they support freedom of press.

Human rights groups disagree.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Palestine 153 out of 179 countries on its latest press freedom index, down three places from last year.

According to Mada, a press freedom group based in Ramallah, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza committed more violations against local journalists than even the Israeli army in 2011.

This latest arrest came days before the Palestinian Authority was set to unveil a prize called the "Press Freedom Award." The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate is calling on journalists to boycott the award.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority did not return calls Wednesday.
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