RAMALLAH, April 23 (JMCC) - The Palestinian attorney general has ordered web providers to block as many as eight news websites from public access, reported
Maan News Agency on Tuesday.
The move is one of several, including detention of reporters and monitoring of activists, that indicate the Palestinian Authority is moving to limit freedom of expression in the occupied territories.
The decision this year to begin blocking websites marks a major expansion of the government's online powers. Experts say it is the biggest shift toward routine Internet censorship in the Palestinian Authority’s history. Aside from one incident in 2008, Palestinians have generally been free to read whatever they wanted.
This is unprecedented for them, says Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a US digital rights group. It is troubling because they had done a relatively good job at keeping the Internet open until now.
The affected websites are Amad, Fatah Voice, Firas Press, In Light Press, Karama Press, Kofia Press, Milad News and Palestine Beituna. With their focus on internal Fatah issues, none are among the most popular outlets in Palestine. But they all report on daily news.
Many of the sites have been described as loyal to Muhammad Dahlan, a former Fatah leader and critic of Abbas. A feud between them took on new urgency last summer, when Fatah sought to expel the former strongman and security forces raided his home. As far back as June 2011, the Palestinian Authority was complaining about its inability to shut down alleged Dahlan media based abroad, the al-Hayat newspaper reported at the time. Four of those sites are now being blocked.
A Maan investigation showed that the internet providers are using easy-to-obtain software to redirect internet users that try to browse the websites.