Palestinian Authority arrests two in one week over Facebook posts

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Tariq Khamis, a Palestinian journalist was arrested by the Palestinian Authority, following critical comments made on Facebook, Electronic Intifada reports.

While the arrest had far more to do with an article that was published in a local newspaper, it was triggered by a social networking post that caught the attention of the authorities.

Khamis said after his release that, during a three-hour interrogation, authorities focused on an article that had been published in the newspaper he works for, Zaman Press.

This is the sixth time Khamis has been interrogated by the Palestinian Authority in connection with his writing.

However, this is not the only arrest in Palestine in the past few days over statements made on Facebook. Ismat Abdel Khaleq, a West Bank university lecturer, was arrested and is currently being held in custody in Ramallah over an alleged insult made on Facebook.

Abdel Khaleq has been detained for 15 days, having been accused of insulting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on her Facebook page.

According to Hadeel Hneitie, a member of al-Haq rights group, Abdel Khaleq is accused of labeling Abbas a traitor and calling for him to step down from his position. The university lecturer has denied the accusations.

Defaming the president, or any other high-level officials, is against the law in Palestine. Speaking about the accusations, Public Prosecutor Ahmed al-Mughani said, “These expressions go beyond freedom of expression.”

These two arrests are the latest in an increasingly worrying trend in the region, Facebook and Twitter users are being taken into custody over statements made that are deemed defamatory, insulting or inciting.

The arrests, however, come amidst a wider crackdown on journalists in general, with a watchful eye not only on Facebook, but on the local media itself.

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