March 22, 2001
His Excellency Yasser Arafat
Palestinian National Authority
VIA FACSIMILE: +972-7-282-2365
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wishes to protest the Palestinian National Authority’s recent closure of the Ramallah bureau of the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera.
Al-Jazeera reported today that PNA security authorities, acting on orders from Your Excellency’s office, closed the station’s Ramallah bureau yesterday and barred its staff from entering the premises. The move apparently resulted from a current Al-Jazeera promotional trailer that advertised a forthcoming episode in a documentary series about the Lebanese civil war. PNA officials apparently felt that the trailer was insulting to Your Excellency.
On March 19, PNA security authorities contacted the bureau to demand that Al-Jazeera withdraw the trailer within two hours, or else face closure. Shortly afterward, Al-Jazeera reported, security officials visited the bureau and told staff that their office was closed indefinitely. On Wednesday, Palestinian security forces took up positions in front of the bureau and prevented staff from entering.
The PNA’s closure of Al-Jazeera and the restrictions on its reporters are a crude attempt at censorship that violates basic international norms for free expression. As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ urges you to ensure that Al-Jazeera’s office in Ramallah may re-open immediately and that its staff may carry out their professional duties without future interference from the PNA.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.
Ann K. Cooper