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US concerned by Palestinian Web blocking

April 26, 2012 4:31 P.M. (Updated: June 27, 2012 7:00 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The United States said Wednesday it was concerned by efforts to restrict access to the Internet and would raise the issue with the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority has instructed service providers to block access to as many as eight opposition news sites, according to Palestinian officials who oppose the decision.

"We have seen these reports, and we are concerned about any uses of technology that would restrict access to information. We are raising these concerns with the Palestinian Authority," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

"You know how strongly we advocate freedom of expression, freedom of information. So we will raise these things and endeavor to figure out what’s going on."

Nuland added: "We’ve had these concerns in other parts of the world, and we wouldn’t want to see the PA going in the direction that some of those regimes have gone in."

She said none of the news sites received funding by the State Department, but did not yet have a "full picture" about US Agency for International Development programs.

Also Wednesday, US President Barack Obama waived restrictions on funding for the Palestinian Authority.

In a memorandum to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama said that "it is important to the national security interests of the United States to waive the provisions" blocking aid.

"You are directed to transmit this determination to the Congress, with a report pursuant to section 7040(d) of the Act, and to publish this determination in the Federal Register."
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