June 13, 2000
Brig. Gen. Ghazi Jebali
Director General of Police
Palestinian National Authority
VIA FACSIMILE: +972-7-282-2335
Dear Gen. Jebali:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its profound concern about the ongoing detention of Maher al-Alami, a Palestinian free-lance journalist who writes frequently for the weekly Al-Istiqlal.
On the evening of June 6, 2000, Palestinian General Intelligence agents detained al-Alami after summoning him for questioning in the town of Ramallah. He was later transferred into police custody where he remains today without formal charge.
Over the years, al-Alami has often published criticisms of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). As a result he has been repeatedly detained and interrogated by security authorities. We also note that his continued detention without charge–now in its seventh day–violates your recent public pledge that no individual arrested by the police would be held without charge for longer than 48 hours.
We also remain deeply concerned about PNA police harassment of the Ramallah-based television station Al-Nasser TV and the Bethlehem-based Al-Mahid TV, shut down by Palestinian police order on May 30 and June 1, respectively. As we noted in our June 2 letter to President Arafat, Palestinian authorities have provided no explanation for the closures. Palestinian journalists, however, suspect that Nasser TV was closed because of a recent talk show on which members of the Palestinian Legislative Council criticized the PNA.
One legislator reportedly suggested on the air that new Palestinian leadership might be necessary if progress was not soon made on the issue of Palestinian statehood. As for Al-Mahid TV, sources in the West Bank told CPJ that the station’s closure might have resulted from a statement issued by the station’s owner, Samir Qomsiyya, in his capacity as head of the Union of Private Radio and Television Broadcasters in Palestine, protesting the PNA’s recent clampdown on TV and radio stations in the West Bank.
Such arbitrary measures against the media amount to censorship and contravene the most fundamental norms for press freedom. As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ respectfully urges you to release Maher al-Alami immediately and make the charges against him, if any, public. In addition, we urge you to rescind the closure orders against Al-Nasser TV and Al-Mahid TV, and to see to it that police under your command respect the right of all journalists to report and comment on matters of public interest.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to your reply.
Ann K. Cooper