PA shuts down newspaper over report on deal with Israel

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shut down the local office of a pan-Arab newspaper after accusing it of “offensive” reporting on Palestinian security coordination with Israel, officials said, according to the Reutersnews agency.

The daily newspaper, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, accused the PA of jailing “dozens of (Palestinian) political prisoners on charges of resisting (the Israeli) occupation”, the report said.

The newspaper, which publishes a broadsheet in London, Beirut andDoha, also alleged torture within Palestinian jails. It branded the closure as politically motivated.

The PA responded by closing Al-Araby Al-Jadeed’s Ramallah bureau on Tuesday, but would not admit it was due to its reporting. In fact, Deputy Information Minister Mahmoud Khalifa told Reuters the newspaper ” lacked a license to operate”.

He did not elaborate.

An October 20 letter from the Information Ministry to the attorney-general, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the newspaper had published a report that was “offensive to the State of Palestine and its security services.”

The report “made it look as if the security services have no job except to make arrests and to carry out security (coordination with Israel) which in itself an incitement against the authority,” the letter said, according toReuters.

Naela Khalil, head of the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed bureau in the PA, described the bureau’s lack of a license as a pretext for the closure, which, she said, the Palestinian journalists union was trying to reverse.

Failing that, she said, the newspaper will appeal the decision at the Palestinian high court of justice.

“The closure of the office is politically motivated and it has to do with the freedom of expression,” Khalil told Reuters.

“We applied for a license more than a year ago, provided all necessary documents and started our work, and we had received no notification from the Information Ministry about any legal problem with the license,” she added. “The Information Ministry said they were some reports we wrote that they did not like.”

Censorship in the PA is nothing new, as in 2012 PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered to censor websites that criticized him.

The PA’s Minister of Communications announced his resignation following the PA’s censorship of the websites, and Abbas later reversed the original order.

The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which handles Washington’s contacts with the PA, told Reuters on Friday it was looking into the case of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.