TEL AVIV — Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested five journalists in the West Bank in recent days and brought a sixth in for questioning, according to the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate.
The Syndicate, which is affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, condemned the arrests and demanded that the Palestinian security services cease to involve journalists in the conflict between Palestinian factions.
Wafa, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority, quoted a Palestinian security source claiming that the arrests came after sensitive information were leaked to “hostile sources” and that the journalists were still under investigation.
The Jerusalem Post reported:
Khatib identified the journalists as Tariq Abu Zayd and Ahmad Halaika of Al-Aksa television, a Hamas-run station, Qutaiba Kasem who writes for the Asdaa website, Mamdouh Hamamreh of the pro-Hamas al-Quds television and Amer Abu Arafa of the Shehab news agency.
The Wafa report mentioned all the journalists except for Halaika. Abu Arafa was arrested after his home was searched and his computer and mobile phone seized, Khatib said.
A West Bank journalist who requested anonymity said “this is not the first time journalists are being arrested but it is the first time five are arrested in one night.”
Shireen al-Khatib is a monitoring group at the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (Mada).
In response to claims that the journalists passed along the sensitive information to Hamas, the movement released a special statement condemning the arrests in the West Bank and claiming that the incident showed “aggression against Palestinian media and harms the freedom of journalism and expression.”
Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of arbitrary detention “with the use of security tools to terrorize those who influence public opinion.” Hamas also blamed the Palestinian Authority for oppressing and silencing journalists and demanded the immediate release of the arrested journalists.
The Forum of Palestinian Journalists blamed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. The forum accused Palestinian security forces of “losing their wits,” and condemned the wave of arrests, which they claimed has included no less than 15 Palestinian journalists in recent days.
The forum accused the Palestinian Authority of preventing journalists from fulfilling their professional and national duties “at a time in recent days when we’ve seen evidence that the (Palestinian) Authority has eased restrictions in the territories for Israeli journalists.”
The current wave of arrests began with the arrest last month of a Palestine Today journalist by the Palestinian Authority after he photographed the official convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as it was being checked at an IDF checkpoint.
Meanwhile, Hamas, which condemned the arrests in the West Bank, continues to hold a journalist for the television station Palestine, the official station of the Palestinian Authority. He was arrested over two months ago.
Yesterday, Hamas security forces also detained a journalist with the Algerian newspaper Al Shourouq, but he was released after a few hours of questioning.