Following criticism, Abbas lifts website censorship

PA president lifts censorship of websites critical of him after public outcry; sites believed to be supported by Dahlan.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Following sharp criticism over Internet censorship, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday ordered the attorney-general to unblock eight critical websites belonging to Abbas rival Muhammad Dahlan, Army Radio reported.
In the order, Abbas said: "Freedom of expression is a right enshrined in the law, therefore, from here forward, the enforcement agencies will be prohibited from shutting down websites."
Abbas also called on journalists to cover events in a "fair and objective manner."
The Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency revealed in April that the PA had blocked up to eight critical news sites since the beginning of the year.
The sites, Amad, Fatah Voice, Firas Press, In Light Press, Karama Press, Kofia Press, Milad News and Palestine Beituna, were blocked for criticizing Abbas.
Palestinian officials told Ma’an that the order to block the web sites came from the attorney-general.
Communications Minister Mashhour Abu Daka resigned after accusing 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 websites.
Abu Daka accused the attorney-general, Ahmed al-Mughni, of “gagging freedom of expression” and said the decision to block the websites was illegal.
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 corruption.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report