P.A. Arrests Journalists for Facebook Posts

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Palestinian Authority has been arresting journalists for comments posted on Facebook criticizing the government.

Last week, security forces arrested Esmat Abdel Khaliq, a journalist and university lecturer, for calling P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas a traitor and suggesting he should resign.

Khaliq, a single mother of two, is charged with "extending her tongue" against the president. She is being held in solitary confinement while the P.A. carries out an investigation, Jerusalem Post  Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported.

On Sunday, security forces arrested Tarek Khamis, a journalist with the Palestinian Zaman Press news agency, for his Facebook post criticizing Khaliq's arrest.

Issam Abdeen, an attorney for Palestinian human rights, said his group al Haq is "genuinely concerned about tightening limits on freedom of expression and on the media."

The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said the P.A. was setting a "dangerous precedent and an assault on freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories," the Post reported.

"Journalists are entitled to express their opinions without fear of being imprisoned or harassed," the group said in a statement.

Palestinian journalist Yousef al-Shayeb spent eight days in jail for an article he wrote exposing the corruption of the P.A.'s diplomatic mission to France.

Al-Shayeb, who went on a hunger strike in jail, was released Monday after posting of a $7,000 bail bond.

P.A. Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki, who heads up the diplomatic mission in France, suggested al-Shayeb should be punished.

Meanwhile, Abdel Samara, a Palestinian journalist who accused the P.A. of being a "totalitarian regime," said in a future state, they would all be serving time with al-Shayeb.

"What would happen when we fulfill our dream of having our own state? We will all be sitting with al-Shayeb," said Samara, the Post reported.

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