|Photo by: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman|
Abbas orders end to Internet crackdown
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
PA president lifts censorship of websites critical of him after public outcry; sites believed to be supported by Dahlan.
President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday instructed the Palestinian Authority
attorney- general to stop the crackdown on freedom of expression and media and
to stop blocking websites.
The decision follows widespread criticism of
the PA leadership’s recent clampdown on journalists and bloggers in the West
PA security forces there have arrested at least nine Palestinian
journalists, bloggers and anti-corruption activists in the past two
On the instructions of the PA Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughni,
Internet providers have blocked several websites that were critical of
The affected sites were accused of being funded and backed by
ousted Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan, one of Abbas’s chief rivals in the
Dahlan, a former security commander in the Gaza
Strip, was expelled from Fatah on charges of corruption.
Dahlan’s supporters say he was targeted after criticizing Abbas and his two
“President Abbas has issued clear instructions to all the Palestinian national
security forces to work to ensure freedom of expression, which is a sacred right
in accordance with the [Palestinian] Basic Law,” Abbas’s office in Ramallah said
in a statement.
“His excellency has also instructed the attorney-general
to lift a ban on all electronic websites and to halt any measure that
contradicts freedom of media and information.”
The statement quoted Abbas
as urging the media to be “objective” in covering events.
decision came in response to sharp criticism from the US, EU and Western human
rights organizations, a Western diplomat and PA officials told The Jerusalem
They said that US and EU diplomats and government officials had
contacted Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to voice their deep concern over
the clampdown on freedom of expression in PA-controlled territories.
PA minister of communications Mashour Daka resigned two weeks ago in protest of
the decision to block eight websites.
Daka blamed Mughni for the closure
of the websites and said the decision was illegal.
Most of the
Palestinian journalists and bloggers who were arrested during the crackdown were
accused of “extending their tongues” against Abbas and top PA
One of them, Yousef al-Shayeb, was arrested for exposing a
corruption scandal in the PA Foreign Ministry.
Esmat Abdel Khalik, a
female university lecturer and journalist, was arrested after a friend posted on
her Facebook page a comment that denounced Abbas as a “traitor and fascist.”
Blogger Jamal Abu Rihan was arrested after creating a Facebook group called “The
people want an end to corruption.”