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AG sees 'no problem' with journalist's arrest

April 1, 2012 8:13 P.M. (Updated: April 2, 2012 8:00 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority attorney general on Sunday defended his arrest of a newspaper reporter and vowed the PA had "no problem" detaining journalists accused of breaking the law.

Ahmad al-Maghni told reporters that Yousef al-Shayeb's report on corruption in the foreign ministry, published in January, "was an affront to journalism" and contained many falsehoods.

"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 PA sees "no problem" in detaining journalists, the attorney general said.

The government "has recently detained lawyers and judges, and it will have no problem detaining journalists who commit any violations against the law," al-Maghni told a news conference.

He said al-Shayeb's case was sent to the judiciary. The public prosecutor will respect opposing opinions and criticism but will not allow "made up" stories which "accuse people without any proof."

IFJ: Shayeb 'has no case to answer'

The world's largest journalists union, meanwhile, called for al-Shayeb's immediate release.

"The protection of sources is universally accepted as an essential tenet of independent reporting," Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists, said in a statement.

"Journalists the world over will be outraged that Shayib has been sentenced for upholding such a basic principle. He has no case to answer and should be released immediately," he said.

The IFJ says it supports the stand of its local affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and warns that al-Shayeb's case will lead to self-censorship and undermine public trust in the media.

"Failure to enforce the confidentiality of journalists' sources will allow powerful figures to evade legitimate scrutiny," Boumelha said. "This is not only bad for press freedom but also for democratic rule."

Facebook criticism off limits

Also Sunday, al-Maghni confirmed the arrest of a woman this week for insulting President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook but the exact charges were not clear.

Al-Maghni said Ismat Abdul Khaliq posted a number of insulting comments which accused Abbas of betrayal and called for disbanding the Palestinian Authority.

“Yes to bringing down the traitor Mahmoud Abbas”, “Abbas is the fascist”, and “Abbas has held a party of immorality and shame at the blood of martyrs” were some of the comments, he said.

He confirmed the preventive security filed a complaint against her.

Palestinians have been arrested for criticizing Abbas and the PA in the past, often after doing so on Facebook. In September 2011, PA forces arrested journalist George Canawati over a Facebook post.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says Abdul Khaliq is not a member of the union.

Reports emerged meanwhile that another journalist, Tareq Khamis of Zaman press, was detained and freed hours later. PA officials could not immediately be reached for comment late Sunday.
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