Rights groups concerned about new electronic crime law
الجرافيك Person types on a computer keyboard
Human rights groups have called on the Palestinian Authority to suspend a new "electronic crimes" law that limits freedom of expression online.
Human rights groups have called on the Palestinian Authority to suspend a new "electronic crimes" law that limits freedom of expression online, Aljazeera reported.
Last month, the Palestinian Authority clamped down on social media and news websites with a vaguely worded decree, which critics say allows the government to jail anyone deemed to have breached the new law.
Anyone found guilty of acts online that disturb "social harmony" can face up to 15 years of hard labour.
Rights activists say the decree was issued without prior public debate last month and is perhaps the most significant step yet to restrict freedom of expression in the occupied West Bank.
According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada), the government blocked 30 websites in the past month.
Five journalists working for news outlets linked to Hamas were detained this week and charged with violating the new law, according to the lawyer of one of those arrested and an official in the association of Palestinian journalists.
Separately, four other journalists were called in for questioning about social media posts critical of government policy.
Ammar Dweik, head of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, told Aljazeera that the new law is "one of the worst" since the Palestinian autonomy government was established in 1994.
It's "a big setback to the freedoms in the West Bank", he said, citing the vague definition of the purported crimes, the wide authority given to the security forces, the large-scale blocking of news websites and the harsh punishments.
Date: 12 August 2017
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