The Palestinian Authority has blocked 59 Palestinian and Arabic websites, including Quds News Network sites, following a decision by a local Magistrates' Court. Palestinians are angered at the decision which was revealed yesterday, as not a site single on the blocked list is Israeli.
Quds News challenged the PA's decision to block its website for "harming civil peace". According to the news network this move "reflects the [PA's] repression of the press."
It added that decision is "an obvious violation of the international standards on the freedom of speech, which comes while Palestinian [online] content fights to survive against efforts by Israeli and social media platforms, which intend to eliminate it." Quds News urged the PA to stop such action as it will lead to the weakening or blocking of the Palestinian narrative.
Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian American writer based in Ramallah, expressed her frustration at the consistent suppression of Palestinian's voices. "The Palestinian Authority and all of its institutions," she wrote on Twitter, "insist on attacking Palestinian free speech, suppressing dissent, repressing critique, with no accountability for its corruption, while continuing to arrest youth."
Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip held protests against the PA's decision today. "We followed with concern the decision of the Magistrate's Court in Ramallah regarding 60 Palestinian sites. We condemn this decision and consider it a violation of public freedoms," Alaa Salama, coordinator of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, said.
"What is needed is to honor the Palestinian journalist and the media, who have long been fighting the Israeli narrative."
"The correct measure is to block Israeli media and news sites which spread poison daily to the Palestinian people," he added.
Headed by judge Mohammed Hussein, the court's decision issued last week claimed that such sites which publish pictures and articles threaten Palestinian national security and civil peace, as well as disrupt public order and morals, and arouse Palestinian public opinion.
Hossam Badran, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau, accused the court of "burying its head in the sand in its attempts to prevent freedom of expression, returning the [Palestinian] national press to the darkness sought by the Israeli occupation." He called on the PA to respect international law and conventions that guarantee freedom of opinion and expression, and the right of every citizen to have access to information and expression.
"Of course, Abbas will block Arabi21 website and he would die to provide a platform for Zionist journalists, who adopt anti-Palestinian opinions and who do not hesitate to criticise even Abbas himself and the corruption of his authority," tweeted Saleh Naami, a Palestinian writer specialising in Israeli affairs. "If you feel no shame, then do as you wish."
The head of the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights, Ammar Dweik, says that his organisation will appeal against the ruling, which "restricts free reporting and free speech."