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Journalist detained; TV programme suspended

(MADA/IFEX) – Ramallah, 18 August 2011 - Hamas security services in Gaza this morning summoned WAFA news agency correspondent Fathi Tbeil following his coverage of a solidarity sit-in for Palestinian refugees in the Alrimal camp in Syria, which was shelled by Syrian forces.

Tbeil was covering the peaceful 15 August sit-in, which was held in the courtyard of Aljundi Almajhoul in Gaza, when security services dispersed the protest and arrested a number of its participants. Tbeil said that, after covering the event, he was approached by a security service agent in a vehicle who arrested him, along with a group of demonstrators, and took them to the Alabas center for investigation. Tbeil was interrogated about his reasons for covering the event and was accused of entering a prohibited area and reporting on a prohibited event. Tbeil assured the investigators that his presence at the scene was purely for work purposes and that he was unaware the event was illegal. Tbeil was held in security service custody until 3:00 p.m. the following day.

Tbeil added: "I was summoned for questioning at 8 a.m. this morning. When I arrived, they didn't interrogate me about the event but rather asked me about my sources and about some of the contacts in my mobile phone. I was released at about 11:15 a.m."

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) strongly condemns the summons and arrest of journalist Fathi Tbeil, which it considers a flagrant violation of Article 19 of Palestinian Basic Law.

MADA also wishes to express its disappointment and concern over Attorney General Ahmad Almghany's 16 August 2011 decision to suspend broadcasts of the programme "WATAN 3 WATAR" on Palestine Public TV. This decision constitutes a violation of freedom of expression as guaranteed under Palestinian Basic Law and the Press and Publication law.

This decision came after a complaint was filed by the president of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Rafik Natsheh, the head of the doctor's syndicate, Jawad Awad and general director of the police, Hazem Attalah, who claimed that previous episodes of the program were insulting to the security services, judicial system and medical professions.

MADA demands an immediate repeal of this decision, which creates a dangerous precedent for cases affecting various forms of expression in Palestinian society.

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