TV correspondents, cameraman detained

New York, January 27, 2009–The Palestinian Authority (PA) has detained at least three journalists in the West Bank since Saturday, according to local news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ. 

On Monday, security forces detained Ahmad Bekawi, correspondent for the London-based al-Quds TV station in Jenin. They also detained Samer Khuaira, the Nablus correspondent for the same station, on Saturday, news reports said. Issam al-Rimawi, a cameraman with the PA-aligned Palestinian News Agency, Wafa, was detained by security forces on Monday. Although Wafa would not confirm the detention of its cameraman, local journalists told CPJ that al-Rimawi has been detained. All three are still being held.

Another correspondent for al-Quds TV in Ramallah, Ibrahim al-Rantisi, was interrogated for several hours today by security forces, according to local journalists. Al-Rantisi was released after his interrogation. CPJ’s calls to al-Rantisi for comment were not immediately returned. 

“We’re troubled by this spate of journalist detentions in the West Bank and the secrecy surrounding them,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The Palestinian Authority must explain why it had detained these journalists or release them immediately.”

Nawaf al-Amr, the West Bank coordinator for al-Quds TV, told CPJ that on Saturday Palestinian Preventive Security summoned Khuaira to its offices in Nablus. He was detained upon arrival, al-Amr said, adding that Khuaira has since been transferred to a prison in Jenin.

Although the reason for Khuaira’s detention remains unclear, al-Amr said he believed it was a reaction to the station’s interview with Abdul Sattar Qassim, a prominent political opponent of the PA and former candidate for the chairmanship of the Palestinian Authority.                                                                           

Bekawi was asked to appear at the offices of Military Intelligence and was detained immediately, al-Amr told CPJ. Local journalists told CPJ that they have not heard from Bekawi since his detention.

Since June 2007, when Hamas seized control of Gaza and PA President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Palestinian government, journalists and publications alike have become pawns in an internal power struggle. In the West Bank, the PA has maintained a ban on the distribution of publications that it perceives to be pro-Hamas. The de-facto Hamas government in Gaza has taken similar steps. Fatah, the dominant political faction in the PA, has frequently detained journalists who have not towed the official Fatah line. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been updated with the correct spelling of Ahmad Bekawi’s name.