A Palestinian court decision to block access to 59 news websites and Facebook pages has drawn criticism and sparked widespread controversy, anger,x and growing calls for stopping the “gagging” policy.
In a rare move, Abbas's government called on the attorney general to overturn the latest decision by Ramallah Magistrate’s Court.
Government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said in a statement that the PA government urged administrators of social media pages and news sites to “follow professional and moral standards in publishing news and media items.”
He stressed the government’s respect for international conventions that guarantee the protection of freedoms and its strong respect for the independence of the judiciary and non-intervention in its affairs.
The decision was made at the request of the Palestinian prosecution.
In its petition to the court, The prosecution argued that the sites disseminate harmful content about the PA and its officials and are likely to be used to incite lawlessness.
The court's decision was leaked after prosecutors sent it to Internet companies in the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate held a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, a day after the news of the blockage was leaked.
Syndicate Head Naser Abu Baker called it a “black day” for the press in Palestine.
“The judiciary must protect freedom in Palestine,” he stated. “It should not restrict it.”
He said that the syndicate appealed against the decision and announced that it is against any previous agreements with the Public Prosecution.
“What is required now is for the court to cancel this decision and amend the law on cyber crimes with respect to freedom of information.”
Abu Baker described the decision to block websites as a blow to the government and its efforts to establish media freedoms.
In this context, Palestinian officials and factions rejected the “gagging” policy.
Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision.
“Blocking access to websites or imposing other measures that prevent access to information or restrict freedom of expression are in complete contradiction with the Palestinian Basic Law,” she stressed in a statement.