Press freedom watchdog the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) yesterday slammed the Palestinian Authority's (PA) recent decision to block 11 Palestinian news websites in the occupied West Bank.
Among the websites blocked on Thursday were the Palestinian Information Centre and the Shehab News Agency, which are linked to Hamas, as well as the Voice of Fatah and Amad, known to have links with Mahmoud Abbas' political rival Mohammed Dahlan.
Hassan Asfour, an employee at Amad, was quoted by MADA as saying that the website had been blocked in the West Bank "with no prior alert and no clear reasons or justifications".
Meanwhile, Shehab News Agency employee Muaz Suleiman Al-Umour told MADA that PA Attorney General, Ahmad Barak, who issued the directive against the 11 publications, had refused to speak to Shehab employees who contacted him to ask about the motives behind his ruling.
This decision constitutes a serious violation of freedom of the press and expression
MADA said in a statement. It called "for the repeal of such measures and practices, which in this day and age of technological developments [are] something of the past."
A senior official from the PA denied that the websites were targeted for their political affiliations, saying instead that they had been blocked due to a number of pending cases against them for reporting false information and being "unethical".
Meanwhile, Hamas official Shaker Amara said in a statement published on the movement's site yesterday that the decision was "a form of political oppression" so the PA could control the version of events being transmitted to Palestinians.