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Palestine Journalists Syndicate urges mass media to boycott PA over protest crackdown

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinian supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas clash with protesters demanding his resignation, as they demonstrate in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on June 27, 2021, days after the death of prominent political activist Nizar Banat while in the custody of Palestinian Authority (PA) forces. (Photo by AFP)

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) has called on local and international media outlets to boycott the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after Palestinian security forces assaulted journalists and violently dispersed crowds in the occupied West Bank as they were protesting the death of prominent political opponent Nizar Banat.

The syndicate, in a statement released on Sunday, called on Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to fire the Palestinian police chief over failure to ensure journalists’ protection, banning correspondents from covering anti-PA protests, and allowing undercover forces to attack them.

The PSJ demanded prosecution of the assailants, and asked Shtayyeh to issue an apology to journalists and to pledge to respect their work as well as freedom of expression.

If the PA's aggression on journalists continues, the syndicate noted, other measures would be taken in the meantime.

The syndicate highlighted that it would start filing criminal complaints against those involved in the attacks against journalists.

On Saturday, Palestinian security forces clashed with thousands of angry protesters, who had taken to the streets of Ramallah, to protest Banat’s death.

The demonstrators called for the resignation of Abbas and accused his administration of killing the activist as they carried Palestinian flags.

Palestinian Authority forces broke into a relative's house, where Banat was staying in the early hours of June 24 and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him, according to his family.

The family has accused Palestinian Authority security forces of killing Banat after beating him and taking him away while he was semi-conscious.

In videos he had posted on social media, Banat had repeatedly criticized the Palestinian Authority for corruption and its security coordination with the Israeli military in the West Bank.

He had also blasted Abbas over a short-lived COVID-19 vaccine exchange with the Israeli regime earlier this month, and slammed his decision to postpone a long-delayed Palestinian election in May, for which he had registered as a parliamentary candidate. 

The spokesman for Ramallah-based security services, Talal Dweikat, said the committee investigating Banat's death had begun its work, calling on Palestinians to wait for the results.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, reject accusations of corruption.

Human rights groups say authorities in Ramallah regularly arrest critics for their political views.

Palestinian Hamas resistance movement also condemned the death of Banat, and said it reflects the intentions of the PA against Palestinians and political activists.

The group held Abbas and his government responsible for the activist’s death.

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