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Abu Daka: Web controversy obscures hunger strike

May 3, 2012 7:19 P.M. (Updated: May 5, 2012 12:50 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The controversy over a decision to censor websites critical of the president is distracting attention from Palestinian hunger strikers, the former communications minister said Wednesday.

Mashour Abu Daka called the controversy following the decision and his resignation "a diversion for us," and he held attorney general Ahmad al-Mughni responsible for the move.

"We should really all think of the prisoners and their fight for freedom. We cannot really go out and support them and then we stifle our freedom outside in other spheres," he told French radio. "Freedom is not divisible; it's a basic right," he said.

The attorney general "behaves in a very authoritarian way, which I think has to be addressed by the president. We cannot really be held hostage to such behavior," he said.

Abu Daka resigned last week after criticizing al-Mughni's decision to block websites critical of President Mahmoud Abbas. He said he was stepping down for personal reasons.

Speaking on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Abu Daka said that by allowing al-Mughni and his supporters free reign, "they are damaging the Palestinian image internationally."

It creates the impression "we are an oppressive society, while we are not," he said.

"What is happening lately in the last few weeks is really disturbing, the campaign against the journalists, the bloggers, the people writing on Facebook. There has to be due process," he said.

"This is not happening, it's only through a single person doing all sorts of things. I'm sure he's taking the order from somewhere else. He's not the only one person," the former minister said.

"There is a school of thinking that they could do this and get away with it," he said.

'Our people are fighters'

The issue has raised concerns within the Palestinian Authority and abroad.

The president's adviser on Internet affairs Sabri Saidam is to meet soon with members of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the attorney general, he told Wafa, the state news agency in Ramallah.

On Wednesday, another US official reiterated concern over the Web blocking.

"The United States advocates free expression and the free flow of information," said Aaron Snipe, spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, during a visit to Ramallah.

"We seek to preserve the Internet and other connective technologies as platforms where people can freely interact, collaborate, and debate issues that are important to them," he said.

Snipe added that the US was "raising our concerns with the Palestinian Authority."

Abu Daka, the former minister, said efforts to restrict access to information would fail.

"There are people telling us 'No, you cannot do this and you can do this.' And this has to be defeated, personally, I think. It should be not allowed," Abu Daka said.

"Our people are fighters. They are not going to give up," he said. "I think they will win. ... And people who think in a very backward (way), they will ultimately be defeated."
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