UPDATE: Palestinian journalist Salim Sweidan freed on bail
IPI welcomes release, says it underscores unjust nature of detention
VIENNA, Jan 15, 2015 – A Palestinian journalist detained last week after reporting that Palestinian security services had assisted Israel in apprehending the suspected murderers of two Israeli settlers was freed Tuesday on bail.
Salim Sweidan, owner of Nablus TV and a member of the board of directors of the Ma’an News Network, was granted bail of 1,000 Jordanian dinars (€1,300). According to the news site Al Monitor, an apology published by Nablus is thought to have facilitated his release, although the apology was later removed. “I would have rather spent 10 more days in jail than publish this humiliating apology,” Sweidan told Al Monitor in an interview.
He added that he had told authorities that “President [Mahmoud] Abbas made it clear in a statement in 2014 that no journalist should be detained on issues of freedom of expression”.
“We welcome the release of Salim Sweidan from prison, but underscore that his detention was unjust and unacceptable in the first place,” International Press Institute (IPI) Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said today.
Palestinian Authority urged to release journalist
Reporter held over claim that information on murder was shared with Israel
VIENNA, Jan 11, 2016 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today called on the Palestinian Authority to release a journalist detained last week after he reported that Palestinian security services assisted Israel in apprehending the suspected murderers of two Israeli settlers.
Palestinian journalist Salim Sweidan, a member of the board of directors of the Ma’an News Network, has been held since Thursday, when Palestinian Authority security forces detained him on accusations of publishing false news and slandering authorities, among other charges.
The Ma’an News Network’s board of directors has denounced Sweidan's detention, saying that Sweidan was not the source of the information and arguing that the Palestinian Authority should have denied the report if it was untrue, rather than arresting him.
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis echoed that argument.
“Imprisoning journalists who report on sensitive matters of public interest is antithetical to democracy,” he said. “The Palestinian Authority certainly has the ability to deny the report at issue, if it is untrue. But Mr. Sweidan should not face an arbitrary and ongoing imprisonment, and we urge the Palestinian Authority to release him immediately.”
The allegations against Sweidan reportedly stem from a report on nablustv.net in which he said that Palestinian security services gave Israel information that led to the arrest of five people alleged to be part of a Hamas cell. The defendants are accused of opening fire on the car of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin on Oct. 1 as they travelled along a West Bank road, then approaching the stopped vehicle and gunning the pair down in front of their four children, who were also in the car.
A prosecutor in Nablus accused Sweidan of “slandering public authorities, making up and publishing false news, violating Palestinian press laws, publishing items which contravene nationalistic responsibilities, breaching journalistic ethics, publishing material inciting hatred and violence, and publishing material that can harm national unity”, the Ma’an News Agency reported today.
IPI Executive Board Member Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist and founder of the Jordanian news website AmmanNet, similarly called for Sweidan’s immediate release.
"The fundamental component of the freedom of expression requires that security officials refrain from interfering or pressuring or intimidating journalists and media outlets,” he said. “The case of the detention of Salim Sweidan and the ensuing pressure on various media outlets is a clear violation of the Palestinian basic law, and the commitments of the state of Palestine.”
Kuttab also called for “an immediate cessation of all security intervention in the workings of the media and a full accounting of these grave violations”.