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Palestinian Authority Urged to Release Journalist

The Wasatia Moderate Muslim Movement in Palestine and the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna issued statements on January 11, 2016 calling on the Palestinian Authority to release journalist Salim Sweidan detained last week

The Wasatia Moderate Muslim Movement in Palestine and the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna issued statements on January 11, 2016 calling on the Palestinian Authority to release journalist Salim Sweidan detained last week after he was accused of reporting that Palestinian security services assisted Israel in apprehending the suspected murderers of two Israeli settlers.

Palestinian journalist Salim Sweidan, acting director of the Wasatia moderate Islamic movement in Palestine and a member of the board of directors of the Ma’an News Network, has been held since Thursday, when Palestinian Authority security forces detained him on accusations of publishing false news and slandering authorities, among other charges.

The Wasatia Movement and the Ma’an News Network’s Board of Directors denounced Sweidan’s detention, particularly since Sweidan was not the source of the information and asserting that the Palestinian Authority should have denied the report if it was untrue, rather than arresting him.

IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis echoed that argument.

“Imprisoning journalists who report on sensitive matters of public interest is antithetical to democracy,” he said. “The Palestinian Authority certainly has the ability to deny the report at issue, if it is untrue. But Mr. Sweidan should not face an arbitrary and ongoing imprisonment, and we urge the Palestinian Authority to release him immediately.”

The allegations against Sweidan reportedly stem from a report on which stated that Palestinian security services gave Israel information which led to the arrest of five people alleged to be part of a Hamas cell.

A prosecutor in Nablus accused Sweidan of “slandering public authorities, making up and publishing false news, violating Palestinian press laws, publishing items which contravene nationalistic responsibilities, breaching journalistic ethics, publishing material inciting hatred and violence, and publishing material that can harm national unity”, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

IPI Executive Board Member Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist and founder of the Jordanian news website AmmanNet, similarly called for Sweidan’s immediate release.

“The fundamental component of the freedom of expression requires that security officials refrain from interfering or pressuring or intimidating journalists and media outlets,” he said. “The case of the detention of Salim Sweidanand the ensuing pressure on various media outlets is a clear violation of the Palestinian basic law, and the commitments of the state of Palestine.”

Kuttab also called for “an immediate cessation of all security intervention in the workings of the media and a full accounting of these grave violations”.

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