Abbas blocks rivals' news sites

Ramallah government blocks at least 11 news websites, run by Abbas rivals.

Elad Benari ,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

At least eleven Palestinian Arab news websites appear to have been blocked by the Ramallah-based government of Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Al-Jazeera reported Thursday.

All the targeted websites are based outside the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria, said a source who spoke to Turkey's Anadolu news agency on condition of anonymity.

"We were informed this morning of a decision by the Palestinian public prosecutor to block 11 Palestinian websites," the source, an employee at a Ramallah-based internet service provider, was quoted as having said.

The blocked websites, according to Al-Jazeera, include the Palestinian Information Center and the Shehab News Agency, which is affiliated with Hamas, as well as the “Voice of Fatah”, which is known to be close to Mohammed Dahlan, Abbas's longtime political rival.

Dahlan, a former security chief in Gaza under Abbas's Fatah, was ousted from the party in 2011 and fled to Dubai. His home in Ramallah was later raided by PA security forces.

Abbas has accused Dahlan of, among other things, collaborating with Israel to assassinate a senior Hamas terrorist in 2002.

Dahlan was sentenced in absentia late last year to three years in prison for allegedly embezzling $16 million while serving as a Cabinet minister.

On Thursday, Iyad al-Qarra, editor of the Hamas-affiliated newspaper Palestine, confirmed that the newspaper's website had been blocked in areas under Abbas's control.

"As part of an ongoing policy of suppressing Palestinian media freedom, the newspaper's website was recently blocked," al-Qarra said via Facebook, according to Al-Jazeera.

"Unfortunately, local ISPs responded [to the public prosecutor's directive] by swiftly blocking the targeted websites," he added.

The PA public prosecutor declined to comment.

This is not the first time that Abbas has censored media outlets affiliated with his rivals. In 2012, he ordered the censorship to be lifted after coming under fire for it.