AFP - The Palestinian Authority ordered the closure of Al-Jazeera television in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday for airing "false" information, the government said in a statement.
The information ministry said that it was taking the Qatar-based satellite channel to court over a report that it aired the previous day and that its operations in the West Bank would be suspended in the meantime.
The statement said that the pan-Arab channel "has been devoting significant segments of its broadcasts to incitement against the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority".
"Despite our repeated calls to remain neutral when it covers the Palestinian issue and to be balanced when it comes to the internal Palestinian situation, the channel continues to incite against the PLO and the PA," it said.
Al-Jazeera declined to comment on the move, which came after the channel aired a story on Tuesday in which senior PLO official Faruq Kaddumi accused president Mahmud Abbas of collaborating with Israel to kill veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004.
The story was aired less than a month before the Fatah movement, today headed by Abbas, is due to hold a general congress on August 4 for the first time in 20 years to renew its leadership.
Kaddumi, who was one of Fatah's founding members, vigorously opposed the 1993 Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel, which Abbas helped negotiate, and has refused to return to the Palestinian territories as Arafat did following the historic accords.
The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, which groups international news organisations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said it was "deeply concerned" by the PA's move.
"We urge the PA to reconsider and are urgently seeking a resolution in line with the PA's stated commitment to freedom of the press," it said.
In Gaza, Hamas "condemned" the closure of Al-Jazeera, saying in a statement that the move was "further proof of the scale of violations committed against the media on the part of the government in Ramallah."
Tensions have simmered between the PA and Al-Jazeera ever since the Hamas movement took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, routing pro-Abbas forces, with the PA accusing the channel of siding with the Islamists.
"Al-Jazeera is an accomplice to the crimes committed by the (Hamas) militias... against our people," senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said in June 2007. "It has become a megaphone of these militias and stays silent about their crimes."