Dangerous Escalation in Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Palestine

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By Amnesty International
August 23, 2017


“By rounding up journalists and shutting down opposition websites the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip appear to be using police state tactics to silence critical media and arbitrarily block people’s access to information.”


The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and their rivals, the de-facto Hamas administration in Gaza, have both tightened the noose on freedom of expression in recent months, launching a repressive clampdown on dissent that has seen journalists from opposition media outlets interrogated and detained in a bid to exert pressure on their political opponents, said Amnesty International.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian authorities have arrested six journalists in August so far, shut down 29 websites and introduced a controversial Electronic Crimes Law imposing tight controls on media freedom and banning online expression and dissent. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas security forces have arrested at least two journalists since June and hampered others from freely carrying out their work. At least 12 Palestinians, including activists, were also detained by Hamas for critical comments posted on Facebook.

“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. This is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Palestine,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“By rounding up journalists and shutting down opposition websites the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip appear to be using police state tactics to silence critical media and arbitrarily block people’s access to information.”

The Electronic Crimes Law, adopted by President Mahmoud Abbas in July, violates citizens’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression and blatantly flouts the State of Palestine’s obligations under international law.

The law imposes heavy fines and permits the arbitrary detention of anyone critical of the Palestinian authorities online, including journalists and whistleblowers. It could also be used to target anyone for simply sharing or retweeting such news. Anyone who is deemed to have disturbed “public order,” “national unity” or “social peace” could be sentenced to imprisonment and up to 15 years hard labour.

“Instead of presiding over a chilling campaign designed to silence dissent, intimidate journalists and breach the privacy of individuals, the Palestinian authorities must stop arbitrarily detaining journalists and drop charges against anyone prosecuted for freely expressing themselves. They must also urgently repeal the Electronic Crimes Law,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

[Read the full article here . . . ]

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