Cairo, 29 March 2012 ANHRI denounces the decision of the Palestinian public prosecution of the city of Ramallah on Wednesday to detain Yousef al-Shayeb, Palestinian journalist, for 15 days pending investigation on charges of “libel and slander”, as accused by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because of his report on the involvement of the Palestinian embassy in France in corruption cases, published on al-Ghad Jordanian newspaper.
Hence, al-Shayed went on a hunger strike in protest against the government’s policy of detaining journalists. Al-Shayeb’s report, published last January, included accusations against Hayel Fahoum, the Palestinian ambassador in Paris, his wife, and Safwat al-Baraghit, his deputy, of involving Palestinian students living in France in espionage and assassinations in favor of foreign security services. The aforementioned members of the Palestinian embassy filed a complaint against him, accusing him of “libel and slander”. In addition, Riyad al Maliky, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, filed another complaint against al-Shayeb on charges of “publishing false news on the activities of the Palestinian embassy”.
Al-Shayeb stressed on that the sources he relied upon in this report are completely accurate and genuine. However, he refused to disclose his sources before the prosecution, based on article IV of the Palestinian publications and publishing law of 1995, which authorizes a journalist not to reveal his sources except on a court decision and only before one. It is meaningless that his detention continues, especially that Zoheir al-Asaly, one of al-Shayeb’s sources and head of the Union of Palestinian Students in France, has published a video on YouTube confirming the validity of the accusations against the Palestinian ambassador and his deputy. Al-Asaly expressed full readiness to testify before the Palestinian justice system to acquit al-Shayeb.
However, the prosecution has not taken the video into consideration or tried to contact al-Asaly. ANHRI also condemns that reaction of al-Ghad newspaper which expelled al-Shayeb last month following pressure from entities whose interests run counter to the publishing of the report. Given that al-Shayeb had informed that newspaper’s administrative board of his sources and confirmed their genuineness, al-Ghad’s action expresses feebleness and repudiation of its role in protecting the journalist and press freedom..
The government’s injustice in al-Shayeb’s case has received strong outcry by Palestinian journalists who responded to a call by their syndicate and organized a sit-in in solidarity with al-Shayeb. They also expressed their rejection of the policy of gagging and detention pursued by the government.
“How is it possible that a journalist is punished for a crime he did not commit, rather than punishing the real perpetrators? Does corruption enjoy immunity in Palestine?” said ANHRI. The Palestinian authority must immediately release Youssef al-Shayeb, cease the prosecution of journalists, and guarantee freedom of opinion and expression.
Al-Shayeb’s case should be a start for amendments in the Palestinian press law to allow more freedom for journalists who are intimidated by personal harm of legal liability.