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PalTel: No choice in Web censorship orders
Published Wednesday 25/04/2012 (updated) 26/05/2012 23:44
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PalTel chief executive Ammar Aker speaks to the press during a presentation
in the West Bank city of Ramallah (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman, File)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The largest telecommunications company in the occupied territories has no choice but to enforce orders issued by the Palestinian Authority, its chief executive said Wednesday.

Ammar Aker says PalTel conducts its operations in compliance with regulatory and legal instructions, but has no further involvement in decisions imposed by the government.

"Our role is to implement those orders and instructions and not to enter into such matters that the company cannot deal with or accept to be part of," Aker said in an emailed statement.

The executive's remarks further distanced the company from evidence of a secretive initiative by the Palestinian Authority to censor websites critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ma'an published Monday the first part in an investigation into the program, allegedly ordered by attorney-general Ahmad al-Mughni, to force PalTel and others to block access to eight websites.

"Since its inception, Paltel has been conducting its activities and operations dealing with the Palestinian National Authority and its governmental bodies in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations and related official, regulatory and judicial orders that are issued by those entities," Aker said.

"Paltel Group has no choice except to abide by those official, judicial, regulatory and legal orders on the basis or allegations related to competent jurisdictions among those official bodies and entities."

The PalTel Group is the largest Palestinian telecom provider. With its subsidiaries Jawwal and Hadara, it provides the majority of Internet, landline and mobile services in the West Bank and Gaza.

'Dangerous' move to restrict speech

In New York, a press freedom group sharply criticized the Palestinian Authority.

"For a free online press, the Internet has to be open for everyone," said Danny O'Brien, Internet advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"By blocking these websites, the Palestinian Authority is creating a dangerous new infrastructure for the suppression of speech in its own country," he said in a statement.

Experts say the Palestinian Authority's new plan exceeds past efforts to control online speech. The government is only known to have blocked one news site, Donia al-Watan, for a few weeks in 2008. At the time, it acknowledged the decision and informed Internet users.

The latest initiative is less transparent. Attempts to load the websites on local networks produce standard error messages. The messages do not contain an explanation.

Palestinian spokespeople say they were not briefed on the initiative.

The affected websites have been described as loyal to Abbas' rival Muhammad Dahlan, a former Fatah leader and security commander in Gaza before Hamas took power in 2007. He has since relocated abroad after being accused by Abbas of plotting a coup in the West Bank.

"The blocking of these sites seems to be blatantly political," said Padraig Reidy, news editor for Index on Censorship, a UK-based non-profit that tracks suppression of speech around the world.

"This kind of action is not the kind that any genuine democratic government should be involved in, and it reflects extremely poorly on the Palestinian Authority."
1 ) Lukas / AntiZionist
25/04/2012 21:29
Abbas and the other occupation puppets of the PLO are utterly useless. Abbas is the dictator of the West Bank. They cannot even tolerate the sligthest criticism and should be ashamed of themselves for their spineless actions.

2 ) Abbas / Must go
25/04/2012 21:52
Thousands of Palestinians did not die to put Abbas and the PLO in power for life,we fought for our freedom , not to have this kind of rule , and we still are not free.to be honest, I would live under israeli rule then the PLO Abbas .

3 ) abed / usa
25/04/2012 22:05
I am interested to know why the censorship article is not mentioned in the Arabic section.

4 ) Nour / One-State
25/04/2012 22:35
Anyone drew a parallel between this mess and the Egyptian mobile operators who cut off their customers during the revolution, at the order of Mubarak? Abbas can threaten the few operators within the Puppet Authority but he can't hide the truth forever. Abbas and his "Authortity" are a liability to Palestinians everywhere and we will NOT be silenced.

5 ) Colin Wright / USA
25/04/2012 23:47
Not really. If PalTel simply refused to comply, what would the Palestinian Authority do? They couldn't risk the political consequences of disrupting service; they haven't the expertise to run it themselves. PalTel is CHOOSING to comply. 'Ve are only obeying orders' isn't an excuse.

6 ) Mel / USA
26/04/2012 00:01
Well of course it has 'no choice'? PalTel,like the PA,PASF,in W/Bank only exists because it's favored & funded-as a factional Israeli proxy outlet-by Zio-Israel & now-fascist USG! Abbas is only Israel's OIC(officer in charge)of open-prison West Bank("good Arabs").While the people of Palestine voted freely & fairly for HAMAS,& ended up in a CLOSED PRISON,internment camp of Gaza,collectively punished by USG & Israel for PRACTICING POPULAR DEMOCRACY,& voting for the "bad(non-compliant Arabs".

7 ) Shirlee / Australia
26/04/2012 09:38
Mel.. you are in la-la land. I've just been there and I would suggest that you to visit Gaza and Judea and Samaria, aka the WEST BANK OF JORDAN, for the truth of the matter

8 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
26/04/2012 14:31
Nour and Colin, you both fail to note that the only country in the region with free speech on the internet is: Israel. Yea, I'm sure the Shabak are monitoring everything, but freedom of expression for Arabs is alive and complete and available in only one country in the middle east: Israel. Yea, I know you hate that fact, but what can you do? One state is a foolish non-starter for cowards afraid to make peace and fools who think it would work. Tell the Pals to go back to the negotiating table.

9 ) Colin Wright / USA
26/04/2012 22:18
To Brian Cohen #8 'Nour and Colin, you both fail to note that the only country in the region with free speech on the internet is: Israel. ' Assuming you make it to the internet. Israel also has a fine record of shooting reporters, destroying video footage, arresting those who reveal its criminal practices, and in general intimidating all and sundry as much as it dares.

10 ) Colin Wright / USA
26/04/2012 22:22
To Brian Cohen #8 'One state is a foolish non-starter for cowards afraid to make peace and fools who think it would work.' Of course, by 'peace' you mean the creation of a Bantustan, and I agree the one-state solution wouldn't work -- for the Zionists. That's why I support it. Israel is unjust at its core, and it can only endure through continuing injustice.

11 ) firas / ps
27/04/2012 14:28
it was not so long ago that the iof raided media outlets in westbank

12 ) Mel / USA
27/04/2012 18:49
#7 Capital-S-hirlee/Aussie: LOL! The fact that you call Palestine "Judea and Samaria",tells me all I need to know about U,dude! Don't tell me? You went on one of those Evangelical-Christian tours,escorted round by IOF/Shin Bet,LOL! Your "truth" is only relative to how MUCH you are willing to actually see! Ask Ostriches in Israel? Sweet dreams cobber! You remind me of the German civilians,in WW2,who said,'Nein,vee had no idea vot zaat smoke,or smell vos,on zee ozer side of ze trees! Truth!' Pff!
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