Abbas lifts censorship of critics’ websites after public outcry

RAMALLAH (JWN and agencies)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday instructed his attorney-general to halt a campaign of censorship and arrests against his critics. The move came in response to widespread public criticism.

Over the past two months PA security forces have blocked websites critical of Abbas’s administration and arrested at least nine Palestinian journalists and bloggers who complained against widespread corruption in the PA.

The websites were blocked by order of PA Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughni, who accused them of being funded by ex-Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan, one of Abbas’s chief rivals. Dahlan himself was expelled from Fatah on charges of corruption.

“President Abbas has issued clear instructions to all the Palestinian national security forces to work to ensure freedom of expression, which is a sacred right in accordance with the [Palestinian] Basic Law,” Abbas’s office in Ramallah said in a statement. The statement quoted Abbas as urging the media to be “objective” in covering events.