Communications Minister Mashhour Abu Daka resigned on Thursday following reports
that the Palestinian Authority government had blocked access to a number of
The minister said he quit for personal reasons, but did not
But shortly before submitting his resignation to Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad, Abu Daka accused the PA attorney-general of being behind
the decision to block the sites.
Sources in Ramallah claimed that Abu
Daka had been fired for criticizing the decision to block the news
Abu Daka confirmed that a number of Palestinian websites had
been blocked by the attorney- general for criticizing PA President Mahmoud
Abu Daka accused the attorney-general, Ahmed al-Mughni, of
“gagging freedom of expression” and said the decision to block the websites was
The attorney-general issued orders to Internet providers in the
West Bank to shut a number of websites, Abu Daka added.
Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency revealed earlier this week that the PA has
blocked up to eight critical news sites since the beginning of the
The sites, Amad, Fatah Voice, Firas Press, In Light Press, Karama
Press, Kofia Press, Milad News and Palestine Beituna, were blocked for criticizing
Palestinian officials told Ma’an that the order to block the web
sites came from the attorney-general.
Most of the affected sites were
believed to be funded and supported by Abbas’s rival, former Fatah Gaza
strongman Muhammad Dahlan.
Abbas has been waging a fierce campaign
against Dahlan for two years after the latter criticized him and his sons. At
the request of Abbas, Dahlan has been expelled from Fatah on charges of
The decision to block websites critical of Abbas “marks a
major expansion of the government’s online powers,” Ma’an reported. “Experts say
it is the biggest shift toward routine Internet censorship in the Palestinian
Several Palestinian officials have expressed
reservations about the decision, calling it embarrassing and counterproductive,
the news agency said.
A Palestinian official disclosed that the
attorney-general was acting on instructions from higher up in the government –
either the president’s office or an intelligence service director.
past few weeks, PA security forces in the West Bank have arrested five
journalists and bloggers and a cartoonist for criticizing Abbas and exposing
The unprecedented crackdown is seen by Palestinian
journalists as an attempt by the PA government to deter them from reporting
about corruption or criticizing the Fatah party’s leaders.