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Palestinian Authority defends web censorship
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
04/29/2012
Websites gave instructions for bomb-making, Palestinian A-G says without giving evidence, asserts blocking is legal.
 
The Palestinian Authority on Sunday defended its decision to block websites that are critical of President Mahmoud Abbas and denied allegations it was violating freedom of expression in the West Bank.

PA Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughni claimed that the websites were blocked for breaking the law and following complaints from Palestinians.

“Some of the websites were blocked for training Palestinians how to manufacture bombs and use them,” Mughni said without providing evidence.

He said that when he ordered the websites to be blocked, he and the PA security forces were acting in accordance with the law to maintain public security.

The attorney-general has come under sharp criticism from many Palestinians for blocking eight websites that are affiliated with ousted Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan.

At the request of Abbas, Dahlan was expelled from Fatah several months ago.

PA security forces also raided Dahlan’s residence in Ramallah and arrested a number of his aides.

The row between Abbas and Dahlan erupted after the latter accused the PA president and his two sons of financial corruption.

Mughni has also been attacked for ordering the arrest of Palestinian journalists, bloggers and cartoonists who criticized Abbas.

Jamal Abu Rihan, a Palestinian activist who recently established a Facebook group calling for an end to PA corruption, has also been arrested on orders of the attorney-general.

Last week, the PA communications minister, Mashhour Abu Daka, resigned in protest against the decision to block the websites.

Abu Daka blamed the attorney-general for the crackdown, saying the closure of the websites was illegal.

In response, the attorney-general launched a scathing attack on Abu Daka and described his decision to quit as “ministerial outbidding.”

“The timing of the resignation is unjustified,” Mughni said, noting that the entire cabinet had resigned back in February 2011.

“Any minister or official who wants to resign should do so quietly,” the attorney- general said. “They should not base their decision on illusions, rumors and fabrications.”

Mughni wondered why the minister had not submitted his resignation when the websites were blocked several months ago.

He also advised PA officials to talk only about political, and not legal matters.

The PA, he added, “respects freedom of expression and is against slander and defamation.”
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