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Al-Maliki: the PA is not targeting diaspora Palestinians critical of Abbas

Oct. 10, 2016 5:33 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 10, 2016 5:33 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki denied on Monday claims that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had ever asked him or other Palestinian Authority (PA) officials to go after diaspora Palestinians who criticized Abbas on social media.

In an interview with Ma’an on Monday, al-Maliki said that he was "surprised with the false accusations which pass from mouth to mouth."

A number of posts on the Internet have accused Abbas of requesting that PA officials use their diplomatic positions to target diaspora Palestinians who take to social media to “defame” and “incite against” Abbas, al-Maliki said.

"I entirely deny this rumor, which I think was created by a collusive mentality seeking to defame the president and the Palestinian leadership," al-Maliki added, reiterating that he hadn’t heard Abbas make such statements.

The accusations levied against Abbas mirrored recent efforts by Israeli authorities, with Israel most recently blocking the Facebook accounts of scores of Palestinian journalists following an agreement between right-wing Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and Facebook to censor content that Israel deemed as “incitement.”

Meanwhile, the PA has come under fire for cracking down on Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory criticizing the Palestinian government.

On Oct. 1, Palestinian security forces arrested a Palestinian military liaison officer, after he shared a post on his Facebook page criticizing Abbas' participation in the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.

In August, International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report notably revealing that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank had detained activists and rap musicians for criticizing the PA’s well-known security cooperation with Israel, while also accusing the government of corruption.

The group stated that the recent violations of freedom of speech represented a larger pattern by Palestinian authorities which has been documented by the group over the past five years.

“At a time when many Palestinians are critical of their leaders, the crackdowns have a chilling effect on public debate in the traditional news media, and on social media,” the report read.

Despite the fact that violations of press freedoms by Palestinian authorities have been fewer and less severe than those committed by Israeli authorities, Palestinian press freedoms watchdog MADA noted in a recent report that as a direct result of violations by Palestinian authorities, Palestinian journalists and media workers “avoid addressing several topics” and practiced self censorship.

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