Palestinian TV satire banned for not being 'constructive'

Ban on Palestinian show condemned as blow to freedom

By Ali Sawafta, Reuters

A decision by the Palestinian prosecutor general to ban a comedy TV show because of complaints from people targeted by its jokes jeopardizes basic freedoms, the show’s producer and broadcaster said on Wednesday.

The order to halt the broadcast of “A Nation on a String” was based on a complaint lodged by the chief of the Palestinian police, the head of an anti-corruption authority and the president of the doctors’ union.

They said the show, in its third season, belittled the security forces, judiciary and the medical profession, was defamatory and “did not deliver constructive messages,” according to the text of the complaint printed in local media.

“This is shameful for Palestinian democracy,” said Emad Farrajine, who wrote the show and performs in it.

“It’s a question of freedom of opinion and establishing a culture of freedom of opinion. ‘A Nation on a String’ was creating this space. But they killed it and they killed this space,” he told Reuters.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) board and a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, described the decision as a “dangerous precedent in the history of the Palestinian Authority.”

“The prosecutor general has appointed himself as the one responsible for artistic works, becoming ‘the artistic authority’ in the country,” he told Al-Ayyam newspaper.

“We are facing a great disaster which violates the most basic of freedoms.”

He said an appeal would be lodged against the decision.

The programme is produced by Palestine TV, part of the Palestinian Authority-owned PBC. It has poked fun at everyone from President Mahmoud Abbas to his rivals in the Islamist group Hamas.

For the last three years, “A Nation on a String” has been broadcast during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, when families traditionally gather to watch drama series and other TV shows after breaking fast at sundown.

Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Elizabeth Piper

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