Palestinian Authority blocks access to news sites linked to Abbas rivals

Israel/Palestine
on 14 Comments

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shut down at least 11 news websites from being accessed in the occupied West Bank, all of which are reportedly affiliated with either the Hamas movement or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah rival, Mohammed Dahlan.

An employee at a Ramallah-based internet service provider told Turkey-based Anadolu Agency that Palestinian public prosecutor Ahmed Barak tasked the ISP provider with blocking the 11 websites, all of which are located outside of the PA-administered West Bank.

Hussam Zayegh, news director for Shehab News Agency in Gaza, told Mondoweiss that the agency found out its website had been blocked through complaints from their readers.

“We were really surprised, we had no official notification that our website had been blocked in the West Bank due to some legal issues or something,” Zayegh said. “Shehab is a legally functioning news agency registered with the PA Ministry of Information, if they want to block our website then there are official and legal processes the PA prosecutor must go through, but the PA prosecutor Ahmed Barak took it upon himself to make this decision to block our site and others through this unilateral order, which is illegal under the PA’s laws. If they want to block us, they have to open a legal case over the issue and sue us before they are able to legally block us.”

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate in a statement slammed the PA, calling the blocks “a clear violation of the basic law [in Palestine] and all media laws.”

The PA has denied that the websites were blocked as a political move, but Zayegh insisted that the motivations for blocking the websites were obviously an attempt to silence criticism.

“These actions taken by the PA against media are happening during a contentious period in Gaza. Gaza is suffering from many different angles, the PA trying to cut salaries, no water, and the recent electricity cuts,” Zayegh said referring to a recent decision by the PA to cut Gaza electricity by 40 percent. “Now the PA is trying to make the situation worse for the Palestinian people and blocking the media coming out of Gaza. In Gaza we are being attacked by the PA and by Israel, both of which are using any sector they can to beat Gaza and increase the suffering here, and now they want to silence the media reporting on it.”

In response to the allegations of politically motivated censorship, a PA official told Palestinian News Agency Ma’an News that the websites were blocked due to “a number of pending cases against them for reporting false information and being unethical.”

Zayegh denied knowledge of any pending cases levied against his agency.

“We have tried several times, again and again, to contact the prosecutor for answers, but every time he learns he is on the phone with Shehab, he hangs up the phone and blocks our number,” he said.

Ammar Dwaik, the chairman of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, also condemned the decision to block the websites.

“Blocking websites, especially news sites, is contrary to the principles of human rights, specifically the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to access to information, as it has no basis in law, and is bad for our people,” Dwaik wrote on Facebook.

The editor of “Palestine,” one of the online newspapers that were blocked, posted to Facebook on Thursday, also condemning the PA’s actions.

“As part of an ongoing policy of suppressing Palestinian media freedom, the newspaper’s website was recently blocked,” Iyad al-Qarra wrote. “Unfortunately, local ISPs responded [to the public prosecutor’s directive] by swiftly blocking the targeted websites.”

“Our colleagues with technical expertise are currently trying to undo the move, as our newspaper — through its website — has tens of thousands of readers across the West Bank,” he added.

In addition to Shehab News Agency, “Palestine,” and the Palestinian Information Center, all of which have alleged ties with the Hamas movement, two news sites affiliated with exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan were also blocked: Amad and “The Voice of Fatah.”

With 6.8 million followers on Facebook, Shehab News Agency has the largest social media following of any Palestine-based news agency. Zayegh said the agency was working hard to resolve the issue and return thing to “how they worked before.”

“They’re accusing us of insulting government officials in high positions and incitement and a number of things, but they have explained no legal proof of this, we have the legal right to know why they have closed our websites,” Zayegh said. “Meanwhile we are working hard to fix the issue technically, and our readers have reported to us that they have found multiple avenues around the block by using website proxies and other electronic pathways to view our site.”

About Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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14 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    June 17, 2017, 12:34 pm

    Abbas wants to be a Pharaoh, asking Israel to cut electricity to the already desperate Gaza strip amounts to complicity in a war crimes, I feel sure Abbas would like to cut the heads off critics, just like his friend King Salman, who in turn would gladly throw Abbas under the bus at the first opportunity. The Palestinians only hope is to somehow get some unity, and join the ‘ark of resistance’ Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon backed by Russia, in my opinion, that’s the future.

    • Citizen
      June 18, 2017, 7:17 am

      I share your opinion. I don’t understand how Abbas still holds his position in the first place since his elected term ran out long ago. Anybody know?

    • Lillian Rosengarten
      June 19, 2017, 9:13 am

      Abbas is a scapegoat and not the problem. The Zionists find any excuse to legitimize Palestinian isolation and destruction. The agenda is genocide and everything else is manufactured propaganda. Don’t be fooled.

      • Lillian Rosengarten
        June 19, 2017, 9:19 am

        Citizen, you are wrong unless your comment is meant as a joke. Israel has kept the unification from happening and manipulating public information. Abbas is a puppet whose strings are pulled by the Zionists who don’t want peace but incite further destruction.

    • Cazador
      June 19, 2017, 9:44 am

      We hear news and read comments about Abbas being on the zionists’ payroll. His actions, selfish in manner and doing, can only prove that money transfer… I guess he’s afraid of ending the way Arafat did end, according to European medical experts, and even Baby Dubya Bush…

      https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201606181041549229-bush-sharon-polonium-assassination-arafat/

  2. Emet
    June 18, 2017, 12:04 pm

    talknic, mooser, annie, roha ? Hello guys, where are you? What, nothing to say here?

    • JosephA
      June 18, 2017, 1:25 pm

      Let them have a peaceful Sunday. This is sad news, and I would anticipate that the leader of any Bantustan that is complicit with Israel will feel similarly invincible. If the Israelis can violate international law with impunity, why can’t this man? Quite unfortunate.

    • RoHa
      June 18, 2017, 6:30 pm

      Not much to add to Harry Law and Joseph A.

      Abbas is Israel’s puppet. This sort of thing is not remarkable under the circumstances.

    • echinococcus
      June 18, 2017, 7:22 pm

      Nothing to say? Why, he will hang together with his Zionist owners. Not even worth mentioning. Looks like you’re so dim you don’t even know who is on your side. Enjoy.

  3. Stephen Shenfield
    June 19, 2017, 11:59 am

    Just in case anyone infers that Dahlan is a preferable alternative to Abbas, available evidence suggests that he is more violent, ruthless, and corrupt than Abbas. He is the strongman type, while Abbas is the diplomat.

    When General Spiegel visited Brown University in the company of Shein, Israel’s consul for New England, one of the topics they discussed informally over lunch was the pros and cons of various candidates for PA leader (see my “The Day the General Came”). Dahlan’s name came up more frequently than any other and it was clear that they both had a high opinion of him.

    Any PA leader, even if personally honest and sincere, is bound to act as an Israeli client (“puppet” is perhaps a trifle too strong). That is determined structurally. The wiggle room for any PA leader to resist the combined pressure of Israel, the US, and often Europe and Egypt as well, is very limited. It must be granted that Abbas has tried to wiggle a bit — as much as anyone could in his shoes. Irritation of the Israeli bigwigs with Abbas’ wiggling may tempt them to replace him with Dahlan.

    • echinococcus
      June 19, 2017, 2:31 pm

      Shenfield,

      “puppet” is perhaps a trifle too strong

      How so and why exactly? Couple supposedly popular gestures were made also by the Nazi occupation puppets and our American executioners. Where is the evidence that Abbas has “tried to wiggle” instead of going through the gestures required from any puppet?

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