Palestinian Authority blocks 51 online news sources
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this week’s decision by a Palestinian court in the West Bank to block access to a total of 51 online news sources that the Palestinian Authority regards as threats. This unacceptable measure seems designed to punish media critical of the government, RSF said.
The list of 51 online media that are to be blocked was published by a court in Ramallah on 21 October. A total of 59 names has been released, including those whose both websites and Facebook pages are targeted. The prosecutor’s office said they were guilty of “attacking and denigrating the Palestinian Authority’s symbols” and “publishing content that threatens national security and civilian safety.”
The targets include the Gaza-based Shehab News Agency, which has 7.5 million Facebook followers, and the Quds Network, with 6.6 million followers. It also includes Facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of followers such as Ultra Palestine, Arab 48, PalAbroad and Al-Majd. Some of these news sources have no website of their own, just a Facebook presence.
“Blocking websites is clearly a violation of the right to news and information,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “In so doing, the Palestinian Authority confirms its refusal to accept media pluralism and its desire to eliminate all opposition by making it invisible to the public.”
The Independent Commission for Human Rights and the Union of Journalists have decided to challenge this decision in court. The verdict is expected for Thursday, October 24.
By way of explaining why it is on the list, one of the targeted media outlets, whose name means “Against the current,” has reposted a series of old articles on its Facebook page providing evidence of government corruption and nepotism.
The is the second time that the Palestinian Authority has blocked a bunch of websites. In 2017, it blocked 11 sites for supporting Hamas or the dissident politician Mohammed Dahlan.
Palestine is ranked 137th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.