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MADA welcomes release of journalist Al-Shayeb and demands an end to prosecution of journalists, bloggers

 

Monday, 4 April 2012

Ramallah - MADA: The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has welcomed today’s decision by the Magistrate’s Court in Ramallah to release journalist Yousef Al-Shayeb on judicial bail.

 

Al-Shayeb was arrested a week ago, on 26 March 2012, after he published an investigative report in the Jordanian Al-Ghad newspaper.

 

MADA lawyer Raed Abdel-Hamid, who attended the hearing as a member of the journalist's defence team, said the Magistrate's Court in Ramallah decided to release Al-Shayeb on 10,000 Jordanian dinars bail.

 

MADA welcomes Al Shayeb’s release, but we remain concerned about the high number of violations against media freedoms and freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories. In particular, we have been monitoring several cases related to comments posted on the social networking site Facebook. This includes the case of journalist Tariq Kamis of Zaman press who was arrested at work by the Preventive Security Service, in Al-Bireh city, near Ramallah, on Sunday 1 April 2012. He was held for several hours after posting comments on his Facebook related to another detained person, Ismat Abdel-Khalek. In a press conference in Ramallah on Sunday, the Palestinian Attorney General said Abdel-Khalek had been detained since last Wednesday, 28 March 2012 after posting defamatory comments about President Mahmoud Abbas. 

 

These incidences follow a number of similar cases. For example, journalist Rasha Harzallah from press agency WAFA was summoned for interrogation on 5 March 2012 following some Facebook posts. Another WAFA journalist, Rami Samara, was arrested at his place of work on 31 January 2012 after criticizing the Palestinian Authority on Facebook.

 

The prosecution of journalists and bloggers creates fear amongst journalists and members of the public, which encourages self-censorship, particularly as most of these prosecutions are based on the  Jordanian Penal Code, which dates back more than half a century.

 

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms rejects these out-dated policies of imprisoning journalists. Detention on the basis of slander and libel cannot be justified under the Penal Code. This only reduces freedom of expression.