Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mahmoud Abbas' Blistering Hypocrisy

Challah Hu Akbar

Earlier today the IDF accompanied an operation of the Israeli Ministry of Communications to close two pirate television stations in Ramallah. The raid took place following countless requests by Israeli authorities to the stations to cease broadcasting, which interrupts other legal broadcasting stations and interferes with aircraft communication.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called the raid “piracy,” while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the raids were a "flagrant assault on freedom of expression and media."

Mahmoud Abbas is a blistering hypocrite to put it lightly
. Attacks by Palestinian Authority forces against journalists, TV stations, etc, have been ongoing for years. In April 2011, Human Rights Watched issued a report entitled “No News is Good News: Abuses Against Journalists by Palestinian Security Forces.” The report states that “Palestinian journalists in the West Bank…have had their equipment confiscated and been arbitrarily detained, barred from traveling abroad, assaulted, and in one case, tortured, by Palestinian security services.” Additionally, Human Rights Watch concluded that “the utter failure of the PA leadership to address the prevailing culture of impunity for such abuses suggests that they reflect government policy.”

Below is a small selection of the suppression of press freedom that has been carried out by Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in recent years.

In July 2007, Seif al-Din Shahin, a correspondent for Al Arabiya was sought asylum in Norway after receiving death threats from Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

In September 2007, Fatah forces attacked a Hamas aligned student press conference at Hebron University. 22 students and journalists were injured in the attack, which led one journalist to say that "Even Israeli soldiers are treating us better these days.” Two months later, Palestinian Authority security forces arrested the owner of the Al-Amal TV station after he had broadcasted a press conference of Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh.

In December 2008, Ramattan News Agency was forced to stop operations following “relentless and heightened persecution” by the Palestinian Authority.

In February 2009, a journalist admitted that "the Palestinian media is under attack by the PA leadership in the West Bank” and that “reporters are too scared to express their opinion." In the summer of 2009, the director of Palestine TV, Muhammad Dahoudi, was fired after Palestinian officials said he had failed to sufficiently cover the activities of Salam Fayyad.

In February 2010, the Palestinian Authority was reportedly attempting to hijack the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate elections. In addition, former Palestinian intelligence official Fahmi Shabaneh admitted that journalists “are afraid to publish anything that angers the Palestinian Authority." In March 2010, the Palestinian Authority shut down the only Christian TV station in Palestinian territory. The PA reversed its decision after public outcry, however, the owner of the station refused to return to broadcasting until he received a formal apology.

In January 2011, a correspondent for the Al-Quds TV station was arrested after posting critical comments of Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook. Just a few months after the aforementioned Human Rights Watch report was released, the Palestinian Authority banned reporters from reporting the findings of a report by Independent Commission for Human Rights. One Palestinian journalist admitted that "Journalists avoid covering events out of fear of being targeted or arrested by [Palestinian] security forces in the West Bank."

Already in 2012, three journalists have been summoned by Palestinian Authority security forces due to their critical comments of Mahmoud Abbas. One of those journalist's said that "Before this detention, I thought that we, the Palestinian people, enjoy wide freedom, but after what I saw, I think I'm being followed by the intelligence in every step of my life."

In addition to the arrests of journalists, since late January 2012 the Palestinian Authority, under the direct orders of Mahmoud Abbas, have targeted a number of websites critical of Abbas, specifically InLightPress. Two weeks ago, a Palestinian official admitted that the Palestinian hacked InLightPress. According to the official, InLightPress broadcasts “sedition and lies to break up the structure of Palestinian society.” As a result, the official said that “It is our right to defend ourselves against this malicious and suspicious campaign.” The official also said that the attacks against Mahmoud Abbas are coming at a bad time because the Palestinians are seeking to wage a diplomatic campaign against Israel.

I will say it again, Mahmoud Abbas is a blistering hypocrite.

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