A 'chilling setback' for Palestine's freedom of expression as journalists silenced with 'police state tactics'
"The last few months have seen a sharp escalation in attacks on journalists and the media by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza in a bid to silence dissent,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“This is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Palestine."
Over the past few months, both Palestinian political factions have arrested journalists and political activists, with the PA cracking down on pro-Hamas and pro-Dahlan journalists in the West Bank.
"By rounding up journalists and shutting down opposition websites, Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip appear to be using police state tactics to silence critical media and arbitrarily block people’s access to information,” Mughrabi added.
An "electronic crime" law was ratified by the PA in July, cracking down on online dissent in the occupied territories.
|The last few months have seen a sharp escalation in attacks on journalists and the media by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza in a bid to silence dissent|
With the law, anyone who is seen "disturbing social harmony" on social media faces being sentenced to 15 years of hard labour, according to the decree ratified by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas, whose presidency expired in 2009, issued the decree without public debate, causing outrage among Palestinians who see it as a serious restriction on freedom of speech.
Despite both being complicit in the crackdown on Palestinian freedoms, Fatah and Hamas continue to criticise each other for cracking down freedom of speech.
On Sunday, Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) security services of "waging war" against journalists, in the West Bank, after it was revealed that a pro-Hamas journalist was arrested and beaten by PA security services just days prior.
|Read more on Press Freedom in the Occupied Palestinian Territories here