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Journalists protest Palestinian Authority's latest media crackdown after dozens of websites blocked

Palestinians have protested Ramallah's decision [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 24 October, 2019

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Journalists are protesting the Palestinian Authority's decision to close 59 websites and social media pages in a new attempt to stifle critics.
Palestinian journalists on Wednesday called for a court decision to block 59 websites and social media pages to be overturned, with activists saying it was aimed at silencing critics

A Palestinian Authority court in the occupied West Bank on Monday ordered the sites, most of them Palestinian, blocked on the grounds they were threats to "national security and peace".

International press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the order included news sites with millions of Facebook followers, such as the Quds Network.

All of the blocked sites are critical of the Palestinian Authority, with most affiliated to Hamas and former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, both rivals to President Mahmoud Abbas.

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A lawyer for the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Alaa Freijat, told AFP the court decision, which came at the request of the attorney general, had been appealed.

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the constitutionality of the law, which allows authorities to take such action if sites are viewed as threats to public order, national unity and social peace. 

Mohammad al-Laham from the journalists' union said that neither the Palestinian Authority's Information Ministry nor the syndicate had been consulted in advance.

Dozens of journalists took part in a demonstration Wednesday, chanting, "Hands off of freedom of the press," he said.

A PA spokesperson, Ibrahim Melhem, backed the journalists, calling on "the relevant authorities and the attorney general to overturn the decision."

Read also: Outrage as Palestinian Authority detains student for Facebook post

Websites have been blocked via internet providers, said Ahmad Youssef, a journalist for one of the sites suspended, "Ultra Palestine."

Sabrina Bennoui of RSF said in a statement that "blocking websites is clearly a violation of the right to news and information."

"In so doing, the Palestinian Authority confirms its refusal to accept media pluralism and its desire to eliminate all opposition by making it invisible to the public."

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