Palestinians watch television in a barber's shop in Gaza City
The Palestinian attorney general has ordered a popular television satire off the air after a chorus of complaints, sources at Palestine Television told AFP on Wednesday.
The programme, known
in Arabic as "Watan ala Watar" ("Nation hanging by a Thread"), was unplugged under an order citing complaints about its skewering of everyone from doctors to police officials, the sources said.
One Palestine Television official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the order accused the programme of crossing red lines and inappropriately criticising public figures.
Several groups had complained about the show, he said.
"The decision... followed complaints from the president of the anti-corruption commission Rafik Natsheh, the head of the doctors' union, and the director of the Palestinian police," the source quoted the order as saying.
"Of course, we will abide by the order of the attorney general and respect the law," he said.
Imad Farajin, a co-creator of the show which has been running since 2009, criticised the order as "a blow to Palestinian democracy."
"This decision violates national rights which are protected by law and the constitution," he told AFP.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, who is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and also serves on the board of Palestine TV, condemned the order, warning it laid the groundwork for censorship and stifling of freedoms.
He said the station would abide by the order in the short-term, but pledged that it would be challenged before the courts.
"This decision sets a dangerous precedent in the history of the Palestinian National Authority," he told the state news agency WAFA.
"The attorney general has set himself up in charge of artistic output and responsible for public taste, which is very serious," added Abed Rabbo, who has himself appeared in an episode of "Watan ala Watar."
"If the attorney general has the power to stop artwork or creative activity, we are facing a serious disaster affecting the most basic freedoms."
"Watan ala Watar" is broadcast daily during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a peak time for television viewers in the region, and on a weekly basis for the rest of the year.
It has gained a following for its unprecedented tongue-in-cheek criticism of Palestinian and foreign leaders, as well as institutions, with clips also circulating online, especially on YouTube.
Farajin said he was shocked by the order.
"In the past, we used to parody people by name and no one attacked us, but this year we didn't mention anyone by name and we get these complaints from the doctors, police and the anti-corruption committee," he said.