Ismar Abdul-Khaleq was arrested for criticising Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Ismar Abdul-Khaleq was arrested for criticising Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

A Palestinian woman accused of defaming President Mahmoud Abbas has been detained for two weeks as part of a crackdown against writers or bloggers who criticise the government.

Ismar Abdul-Khaleq, a lecturer at a West Bank university, was arrested by Palestinian security forces after they read an entry on her Facebook page in which she accuses Abbas of being a traitor and demanding that he resigns, her lawyer, Issam Abdeen of the Palestinian rights group al-Haq, told AP news agency.

She was arrested on 28 March and is being detained for a period of 15 days.

A member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate told the Ma'an news agency that Abdul-Khaleq she was transferred to hospital on 4 April after her health deteriorated.

Activists warn the Palestinian Authority is cracking down on anyone who is openly critical of the government, with writers, journalists and bloggers being particularly affected.

"We are genuinely concerned about tightening limits on freedom of expression and on the media," Abdeen said. "We don't want reporters to second-guess whether they will be punished or not when they write."

In response to the crackdown, public prosecutor Ahmed al-Mughani said: "These expressions go beyond freedom of expression."

The Palestinian Authority has issued a statement affirming "its respect and protection of freedom of speech and the press, and that the government continues to protect journalists' rights to work freely".

In its statement, it also called on journalists to "maintain professional standards, particularly on public affairs issues".

Defaming the president and other high-ranking officials is viewed as a crime by the Palestinian Authority.