Two journalists released in West Bank, one still in prison

New York, March 3, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate release of a journalist who has been detained since late January by the Palestinian Authority (PA) after its release of another journalist in the West Bank on Monday.

The PA’s Preventive Security Service freed Samer Khuaira, the Nablus correspondent for the London-based al-Quds TV station. Khuaira was arrested on January 24 after being summoned to the service’s Nablus offices. He said that he and al-Quds TV were accused of having a bias toward Hamas, which he denied. Khuaira told CPJ that he spent a week in solitary confinement in al-Junaid prison in Nablus before he was transferred to a general holding cell in the same prison.

“We welcome the release of our colleague Samer Khuaira, but we’re troubled by the ongoing detention of al-Quds TV correspondent Ahmad Bekawi,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the Palestinian Authority to release Bekawi immediately.”

Bekawi is the Jenin correspondent for al-Quds TV. He was detained after being called to the offices of Military Intelligence on January 26, Nawaf al-Amr, the West Bank coordinator for al-Quds TV, told CPJ at the time of his arrest. Al-Amr said on Monday that the station’s lawyer was only able to see Bekawi at al-Junaid prison once, with prison officials present throughout the visit 

Also recently detained and released was Issam al-Rimawi, a cameraman with the PA-aligned Palestinian News Agency, al-Rimawi told CPJ. He was picked up by security forces on January 26, held at Beitunia Prison near Ramallah, and released on February 10.  

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007, both Hamas and the Fatah-controlled PA have frequently detained journalists who have not toed the respective official lines. Each party has a ban on the distribution of publications they perceive as partisan.