WEST BANK: Not everyone's laughing at Palestinian TV comedy
At a time when revolts in Arab nations are gradually taking their toll on the leaders of those countries, Palestinian officials seem worried that too much criticism of their performance may eventually lead them to a fate similar to their Arab brothers.
At least that's what one comedian-actor-writer believes.
Imad Faragin last year launched a political-social satirical TV show called "Watan ala Watar" ("Country on a String"). The short series, which was sponsored and aired daily on state-owned Palestine TV during last year's fast month of Ramadan, was a hit mainly because of its harsh and funny criticism of Palestinian political, social and civil society leaders and organizations.
Happy with the positive reviews he got, Faragin, the writer and main actor of the show, decided to do it again for this year's Ramadan. Following the same style, he hit hard in a comical and sarcastic manner at more or less the same officials and groups. However, this time the reaction was different.
Already, two groups have filed lawsuits against "Watan ala Watar" and Palestine TV, claiming the show has harmed their reputation. The police and the doctors groups filed the suits in Palestinian courts, demanding compensation and a stop to the show. In the show, police were portrayed as getting drunk from smelling the breath of a drunk person, and doctors were portrayed as not caring about the life of their patient.
"Officials are more tense this year than before," Faragin said. "I imagine the reason is because of the Arab Spring. They are afraid that too much criticism may lead them to the same fate as other Arab officials."
Faragin said he is worried that the negative reaction from officials may force cancellation of the show.
"I did not receive any personal threats, but there definitely was huge pressure directed mainly at me," he said. "This is proof to me that the show had an impact, and this is why officials seem concerned by its message."
He said the show reflects the feelings of the people and expresses their views on various social and political ills. He said he is not going to quit producing the show, no matter what happens. He added that he believes in freedom of expression and that if he has to go to court, he'll go alone and take with him only a camera to record the hearing.
He also said that the controversy will definitely give him material for future shows.
-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank