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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Palestinian Authority Blocks Access to 20 News Websites

Tuesday , 20 June 2017

On June 15, 2017, the Palestinian public prosecutor in the West Bank, Ahmad Barrak, decided to block access to the following 14 news websites affiliated with the Hamas movement and former Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan: The Palestinian Information Center, Shehab News Agency, Pal Times, Ajnad News, Fateh Voice, Firas Press, Felesteen, Omama News, Karama Press, Shfa Palestine News Network, Palestine Press News Agency, Kofia Press and Amad. The next day, six additional websites were blocked, namely: Quds News Network, Palestine Dialogue Forum, Safa Press Agency, Al-Aqsa Satellite TV website,  In Light Press and Quds Press Network. The websites owners were not informed of the reasons of this abrupt decision.
“It is a new, strange  policy to muzzle the press and silence the ones who speak up for the Palestinian people. This kind of violations prevents the Palestinian citizens from accessing information especially when these websites help avoid political clashes,” Iyad Al-Qara, director general of Felesteen, said in an interview with SKeyes’ correspondent.
“We were not told if any of the parties had filed a complaint against us; and it had never happened before. We were very surprised of this ban  and no one informed us of the reasons. We fear that the authorities will task Internet service providers with extending the ban to the Gaza Strip. This is why we will resort to the relevant authorities in the West Bank to know the reasons and submit an appeal and the required evidence to try to lift the ban. The decision is obviously arbitrary and not based on correct legal procedures,” he added.

In a report published the same day, the Maan agency said the websites were blocked as a result of several complaints lodged with the public prosecutor.
“Blocking access to news websites in the Palestinian territories is the proof that the Palestinian authorities want to muzzle the press and restrict the freedom of opinion and expression. It is a flagrant violation of the rights of journalists,” the editor of Jordan-based Amad news website, Hassan Asfour, said. “Press freedom is in danger today; the policies adopted by the Ramallah authority are alarming and promote one-track thinking,” he added.
“What is stated in the Maan report is but a shallow explanation of the decision to block the news websites. Let us consider that it is a trustworthy source; why weren’t the news websites’ owners informed of the complaints filed against them? Or do the sentences come before the charges? These claims are false and aim at justifying these blatant violations,” Asfour continued. He also pointed out that the real reason behind this decision is to prevent the news websites from practicing journalism according to a clear vision. “We seek the truth and bring it to the public’s attention. The policies carried out by the authority, especially with regards to Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the situation in the Gaza Strip are the main reasons why the access to our website was blocked. They want to turn us into puppets,” he concluded.
A media blackout prevails with regard to such practices. The public prosecutor’s information office, other official authorities and the Internet service providers all refused to disclose any information.

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