Last May, when the media was concentrated upon the collective hunger strike in Israeli jails organised by Marwan Barghouti, another hunger strike initiated by Hamza Zablah went largely unnoticed. Zablah, a former prisoner for Hebron, was been detained by the Palestinian Authority security services and despite an order being signed for his release, his detention was not terminated.
This year, PA violations and repression against Palestinians has escalated, notably against Palestinian journalists affiliated to media agencies which harbour different politics. Last Sunday, seven Palestinian journalists embarked upon a hunger strike in protest against their detention by the PA. According to Palestinian media, the journalists were detained for violating the recently approved cybercrime legislation which, among other offences, stipulates prosecution against Palestinians if the individual commits a crime “against a Palestinian party or against Palestinian interests.”
Article 20 of the legislation holds accountable “anyone who creates or manages a website or an information technology platform that aims to publish news that would endanger the integrity of the Palestinian state, the public order or the internal and external security of the state.” Issam Abdin, from the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, declared the law as “destroying the freedom of journalism work in Palestine.”
Like any other legislation, the used terminology is well suited for the creation of legal loopholes. The escalating criticism over PA violations committed against journalists and freedom of expression this year have likely triggered this presidential decree, as events unfolded in the occupied West Bank which were met with the obstruction of media freedoms by the PA security services, and with varying degrees of violence. The aim is to prevent any possible criticism of, or dissent against, the PA – events and reports unfolding throughout the year indicate that the intention of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas runs deeper than a political divide between Fatah and Hamas. Read more.