Amnesty slams PA, Hamas for clampdown on freedom of expression

The deputy regional director called the moves a "chilling setback for freedom of expression."

August 24, 2017 00:04
1 minute read.
Amnesty International

Activists of Amnesty International demonstrate to show their support with the Syrian people at the Fontaine des Innocentes in Paris May 29, 2012.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Amnesty International on Wednesday slammed the PA and Hamas for what it called a clampdown on freedom of expression in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, respectively.

“The last few months have seen a sharp escalation in attacks by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, on journalists and the media in a bid to silence dissent,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International. “This is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Palestine.”

In early August, the Palestinian Authority arrested five journalists, who work for Hamas-affiliated news outlets, for allegedly “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities,” according to PA-run media in the West Bank.

The arrests came after the PA issued a new cyber crimes law, which permits authorities to imprison anyone “who aims to publish news that would endanger the integrity of the Palestinian state, the public order or the internal or external security of the state.”

Palestinian civil society groups, including the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, have called on the PA to rescind the cyber crimes law.

In June, the PA also blocked several websites critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, Hamas arrested two journalists in June and detained other journalists and activists over comments critical of Gazan authorities on social media.

According to evidence gathered by Amnesty, one of the detained activists was likely tortured in Hamas’s custody.

The PA recently released the journalists it arrested in August, while Hamas also set free a journalist it jailed in June.

A 2017 Freedom House report characterized the West Bank as “not free” and gave the territory a freedom score of 28 out of 100. (0=least free and 100=most free) The same report described Gaza as not free and gave the area a freedom score of 12.

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