Palestinian Authority blocks dozens of websites in media crackdown
A Ramallah court has blocked dozens of websites in the occupied West Bank critical of the Palestinian Authority, in a decision that has drawn widespread criticism from journalists and activists.
The court order, issued on 17 October but revealed on Monday, says the 59 websites publish materials that "threaten national security and civil peace."
The ruling, made by the Ramallah Magistrates Court at the request of the Attorney General, also claims that the websites violate the controversial Cyber Crime Law introduced in 2017.
The law had been met with huge opposition by Palestinian journalists, civil society and rights activists when it was first passed.
All of the banned sites are critical of the Palestinian Authority, with most affiliated to Hamas and former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, both rivals to President Mahmoud Abbas.
Ammar Dweik, head of the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights, says his organisation will appeal against the ruling, which "restricts free reporting and free speech."
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate slammed the decision as a "massacre" against the freedom of expression and Palestinian media.
"This is a black day in the history of the Palestinian media," it said in a statement.
Hamas attacked the move, saying that "the Palestinian Authority is burying its head in the sand in its attempts to prevent freedom of expression and return the national press to a dark era".
President Mahmoud Abbas issued the Cyber Crime Law by executive decree in 2017, granting wide-ranging powers to block websites, conduct surveillance and assemble data on ordinary citizens.
Prominent activist Issa Amro was charged under the law in September 2017 for posting comments on Facebook critical of the Palestinian authorities.