Geneva - The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor sent a letter today to the United Nations to expressing deep concern at recent measures advanced by the Palestinian Authority that restrict freedom of expression and represent a worrying precedent in violating the freedom of press and digital rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“As you know, the PA banned 59 online news websites last week, based on article 39 of the controversial cybercrime law, instated by the PA in 2018,” the Euro-Med Monitor’s letter says, which was sent to Mr. David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
“[article 39 of the cybercrime law] allows the attorney general to flag any online outlets that endanger national security, general order and norms. The 59 websites in question were found to be critical of the PA president Mahmoud Abbas,” the letter states.
Earlier, in 2017, the PA also banned around 30 websites that criticized its policies and tightened its grip on many local journalists, some of whom are still undergoing trial until today.
Unfortunately, the cybercrime law’s ambiguous and elusive language enables the PA to take arbitrary measures against critical voices, press serious charges against them and sentence them harshly and disproportionately.
The Euro-Med Monitor emphasized that the PA must unblock access to all banned sites immediately, end the trails of journalists charged with criticizing it and repeal the cybercrime law, or review it to ensure its compatibility with relevant international laws and human rights.
The Euro-Med Monitor said in its letter that the PA must renew its legitimacy through holding general presidential and parliamentary elections to ensure the supremacy of the law and accountability where the judiciary, legislative and executive authorities are separate, impartial and accountable to the Palestinian people.
The Euro-Med Monitor concluded its letter by calling Mr. Kaye to directly raise the controversies emanating from the cybercrime law to the PA, and demand immediate clear action from the PA to show genuine compliance with and ratification of relevant international conventions signed by PA, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.