TEL AVIV — The Palestinian Public Relations Ministry told the radio station “Ahla FM” that it intends to shut down the broadcaster if it doesn’t fire one of the female reporters working for the station who has taken a critical line toward the Palestinian Authority.
According to Ahla FM, the station’s offices received an official declaration from the Palestinian Communications Ministry on October 22 demanding that their news manager, journalist Reem al-Omari, be removed from her position.
In the declaration, the ministry said that the demand must be fulfilled within two weeks and that the ministry opposes al-Omari holding a management position at the station.
Al-Omari said that employees at the station were shocked by the message from the Palestinian Communication Ministry: “We tried a number of times to call the director-general of the Communications Ministry and he ignored us.”
According to al-Omari, at the end of the two weeks the station was given to replace her, a delegation from the Communications Ministry came to the station’s studios to check why there had been no response to the ministry’s demand.
“Members of the delegation who arrived refused to explain their decision or their demand and claimed that the explanation lies with the Public Relations Ministry,” said al-Omari.
She added that the delegation told the station’s legal advisor to contact the ministry to find out more about the demand.
The reason was seemingly the critical morning program hosted by al-Omari called “Depression in the Morning,” which began to air six years ago. The program is known for its critical line and the aggressive interviews al-Omari conducts with senior Palestinian Authority officials and others in the Palestinian government.
In a conversation with the Palestinian website Al Quds, al-Omari said that the Communications Ministry contacted the station on multiple occasions and demanded that al-Omari moderate the program and the discussions, a demand which she said she rejected.
Al-Omari turned to human rights organizations and NGOs active in protecting a free press.
They expressed solidarity with al-Omari and demanded that the Palestinian Authority withdraw its demand. Al-Omari also turned to the Association of Journalists, an official Palestinian body, and she is currently waiting for the association to deal with the matter. The association has so far refused to issue a statement defending the decision of the Public Relations Ministry.