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Ashrawi urges government to unblock critical websites
Published Saturday 28/04/2012 (updated) 26/05/2012 23:44
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Hanan Ashrawi, a parliament member, at work in Ramallah. (MaanImages/File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi called Saturday on the Palestinian Authority to stop blocking access to news websites that report critically of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ashrawi said the government had no legal authority to instruct Internet service providers to censor the Web and denounced the move as a violation of freedom of expression in Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority began blocking access in February to eight websites considered loyal to a rival of Abbas, according to officials who oppose the decision. On Thursday, communications minister Mashour Abu Daka announced his resignation after criticizing the initiative.

"Palestine should not promote censorship, whether on the Internet or in other forms of communication," Ashrawi said.

She called the new initiative "in complete contradiction to the principles of the (Palestinian) Basic Law."

The plan to block the eight websites, first disclosed Monday, has embarrassed Palestinian officials and sparked criticism from the United States, its largest financial backer. A State Department spokeswoman said US officials were concerned and raising the issue with the Palestinian Authority.

"Unfortunately, these recent acts undermine our efforts to create a Palestinian democratic pluralistic and tolerant society based on the rule of law," Ashrawi said.

"It is imperative that we safeguard the freedom of expression, access to information and all other fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people," she said, adding that they are also essential components in the struggle against Israeli occupation and repression.

Other Palestinian officials said they were astonished to hear of the blocking.

Eyad Sarraj, the head of a commission to implement a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, said Thursday that in light of pro-democracy protests across the region, "we expect more openness to the world, yet there are others who want to take us backwards."

He added: "The Palestinian people have struggled and are still struggling for their freedom. They should not be rewarded with more siege and suppression -- especially not by their own people."

News of the minister's resignation late Thursday fueled speculation that he was quitting in protest or was forced out after criticizing the initiative. Abu Daka says he decided to quit weeks ago but PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad only accepted the resignation Thursday.

Hours earlier, he told local radio the attorney general's decision was no less serious than financial wrongdoing. "Withholding information from the public is a form of corruption," he said, adding that "What's happening now is an attempt to play them for fools."

In Jerusalem, a Palestinian Authority spokesman denied the government had new plans to censor the Web, but he acknowledged "legislative gaps" that leave some media vulnerable.
1 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
28/04/2012 20:12
Here we see where the real apartheid is at work. Palestine bans free speech and freedom of expression. Palestine has apartheid laws that ban Jews and give the death penalty to Arabs who sell a house to a Jew. BDS against Palestine now!

2 ) Mitri I. Mulseh / Canada
28/04/2012 22:18
Freedom of speech and self-expression are one of the same and stand as a pillar to the building of any democratic state. Any violation of this concept would ultimately suppress modernization and progress. The Palestinian people’s struggle should not only be directed against any occupation forces, but also against forces that stand against progress. Defending human rights and advocating freedom for all, is the only pillar that is needed to deliver the Palestinian people from the captivity of pol

3 ) someone else / somewhere else
28/04/2012 22:36
These are lies, Mr. Cohen, blatant lies. If you were to read the 1973 Convention against Apartheid (approximate title, which refers also to genocide) you would see that it is indeed Israel which practises something worse than South African apartheid, attributed to Mr. Verwoerd, who said on November 23, 1961 that he believed Israel too to be an apartheid regime.
Two days ago, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu reiterated this sentiment.

4 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
28/04/2012 23:52
Lies? The best you can do is quote somebody from 1961?!?!?! Here, watch this black South African legislator who says that Israel is not anything close to apartheid, and that people like you are poor propagandists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=se5xTh8uwyo&list=HL1330932667&feature=mh_lolz Then, of course, there is Judge Goldstone's op-ed in the NYT last year where he says exactly the same thing. And if I'm lying, please show me Jews who live in the PA. The PA kicked them out. Apartheid!

5 ) Robby / USA
29/04/2012 06:22
3 ) someone else / somewhere else - What would you call it when a baby born in Lebanon (of Palestinian descent), whose parents and grand parents were also born in Lebanon is denied rights to own property, vote, a decent education, most high-paying jobs, etc? When they are forced to live in "camps" that are not even allowed construction materials? And this isn't 1961, it is now.

6 ) Gary Katz / USA
29/04/2012 21:33
Someone Else, you sound like someone who has never been to Israel and certainly has little knowledge about what Blacks endured under South African apartheid. The you call Israeli "apartheid" worse than what the South Africans were subjected to, which exposes not only ignorance, but also extreme bias. As for Tutu, he criticized the security barrier, but he has plenty of security surrounding where he lives. Criticism is easy when it's not your butt on the line.

7 ) Emile / USA
01/05/2012 01:25
#6 Mr Katz: As a Jew with privileged rights to the Jewish "club med", it is not surprising that you do not see how Israel is worse than Apartheid South Africa. As an American of Palestinian Christian origin, I do. I was born in Jerusalem yet have no right to live there. I am held for hours and hours in Ben Gurion airport being asked personal questions, the name of my grand father and great grand, my address book reviewed and names copied...and on and on. Shame on you.
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