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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Palestinian ISP says it has no choice but to censor websites

From 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.

It's funny, but while the PA (and Hamas) have, for years, routinely intimidated and arrested reporters, stopped distribution of newspapers and engaged in similar forms of censorship, the world yawned. But stopping access to eight Internet news sites has woken people up.
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.
The State Department spokesperson likewise commented, saying that the US is "raising these concerns with the Palestinian Authority."