How The Palestinian Authority Fights Corruption
Jamal Abu Rihan is a Palestinian blogger and activist who is being held in a Palestinian Authority prison in the West Bank.
Security forces belonging to the Palestinian Authority government arrested Abu Rihan after he created a Facebook group called "The People Want to End Corruption."
Demanding reform and democracy has become a crime in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Direct and indirect criticism of Palestinian Authority leaders has also become a crime that can land journalists, bloggers, cartoonists and political opponents in prison.
Instead of going after top officials suspected of embezzling public funds and abusing their powers, the Palestinian Authority government has chosen to wage an unprecedented clampdown on those who dare to raise their voices in support of transparency and freedom of speech.
Abu Rihan's anti-corruption group on Facebook has won the backing of more than 6000 followers. These people clicked "like" and joined the group within days of its launching. Some of the followers, especially those living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, now fear being thrown into prison for committing the crime of demanding an end to corruption.
The arrest of Abu Rihan and others is aimed at sending a warning to Palestinians against criticizing their government and leaders.
The Palestinian Authority government has also warned Palestinian journalists against reporting about the crackdown or helping Western correspondents cover the crackdown on journalists and bloggers.
In the past few weeks, Palestinian security forces summoned a number of Palestinian journalists for questioning about their ties with Western journalists and media outlets.
Palestinians say that the campaign of intimidation and harassment against the media is designed to prevent "negative reporting" about the Palestinian Authority government. The Palestinian Authority does not want anyone to report about corruption and abuse of power out of fear that this would affect financial aid from the US, EU and other countries.
The clampdown has thus been successful and most Palestinian and international journalists seem to have understood the warning. That is why the case of Abu Rihan, for example, has received almost no attention in the Palestinian and Western media.
If Abu Rihan were a Chinese dissident imprisoned by the authorities in Beijing, his case would have been endorsed by human rights groups around the world and the mainstream media in the West. Had Abu Rihan been arrested by the Israeli authorities for such a crime, his story would have most likely made it to the front page of many respected newspapers.
But when it comes to violations of freedom of expression in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is given a pass by many Americans and Europeans. By arresting reformists and critics, the Palestinian Authority is once again proving that it is not serious about combating corruption and reforming its institutions.
The crackdown on journalists, bloggers and political activists also serves as a reminder that the Palestinian Authority government is not different than most of the dictatorships in the Arab world.
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