Early in the morning on Monday 6 January 2003, a unit of the Palestinian General Intelligence arrested the Gaza based correspondent for the Qatari TV news channel, al-Jazeera. Seif al-Din Shahin, 34, from Rafah was arrested as a result of a report that was broadcast last night on al-Jazeera. PCHR condemns this unlawful arrest and considers it a flagrant violation of the freedom of press and the right to free expression. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian Authority to immediately release Shahin. As Shahin’s legal representative, PCHR will take all necessary steps to ensure his immediate release.
According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 02:20 on Monday, a unit of the General Intelligences raided the office of al-Jazeera TV channel in Gaza City and arrested its correspondent Seif al-Din Shahin, without following necessary legal procedures. Up until the time of writing, Shahin has been detained at the headquarters of the General Intelligence in the al-Sudania area in Gaza. The arrest came shortly after a live broadcast by al-Jazeera, which covered the Israeli air strikes in Gaza City last night. The coverage included a phone call by a person who claimed to be a member of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of Fatah Movement. He claimed their responsibility for the two suicide bombings in Tel Aviv last night, which left more than 20 Israelis dead. He also criticized what he called “the defeatist trend” in the Fatah Movement, referring to a statement issued by Fatah denying its responsibility for the two bombings.
PCHR considers the arrest of Shahin a serious violation of press freedom and calls for his immediate release. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian Authority to ensure that freedom of press be upheld. Journalists cannot be held to blame for their unbiased and independent reports. Restricting such reporting in order to control the dissemination of information is unreasonable and unlawful. The correct method is to lift all restrictions imposed on freedom of expression, and provide an atmosphere for freedom of the press while allowing the publication, receiving and imparting of information, instead of trying to prevent it.