Palestinian Authority: Pres. Abbas curbs social media freedom in decree

The Palestinian government in the West Bank clamps down on social media and news websites —the main outlets for debate and dissent in the West Bank— with a vaguely worded decree that critics say allows his government to jail anyone on charges of harming 'national unity' or the 'social fabric.'

President AbbasPresident Abbas Jerusalem, Aug.11 (AP).– Rights activists say the edict, issued without prior public debate last month, is perhaps the most significant step yet by Abbas' government to restrict freedom of expression in the West Bank.

A Palestinian prosecutor denied the decree is being used to stifle dissent and insisted that a new law on electronic crimes was needed to close legal loopholes that in the past allowed offenders, such as hackers, to go unpunished.

However, the government has blocked 30 websites in the past month, according to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, or Mada.

Most of the sites were affiliated with Abbas's two main rivals—a former aide-turned-foe, Mohammed Dahlan, and the Islamic militant group Hamas, Mada said. A few of the blocked sites had supported ISIS in Iraq and Syria ...

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