On 21 October, a Palestinian court approved the blocking of 59 Palestinian websites and accounts on Facebook, including Arab 48, Ultra Sawt, Metras, Arabi21, Shehab news agency, Quds news agency and AMAD Media.
The editor of the website "Ultra Sawt” Abbad Yahya told Raseef22 that the decision to block his site by the Ramallah Magistrate’s Court, along with dozens of other Palestinian sites and accounts on social media is "surprising and incomprehensible".
Sudden and Incomprehensible
Yahya added: "We do not have information about the real reason for this decision, we were very surprised by it. We are a Palestinian website that covers everything related to Palestine and we have had hundreds of Palestinian journalists writing for us since the launch of the website three years ago. We communicate with the authorities and they continuously communicate with us.”
He described the decision as "strange and incomprehensible because the list includes political pages on Facebook, but we are not a Facebook account and we do not have political affiliations or positions with or against any party in the country. We do not understand the decision that has been published through the media and we have not yet received the official text.”
He added: "According to lawyers and human rights organizations, there must be a detailed and accurate explanation of the reasons for such a decision."
Regarding the website's position on the decision, Yahya said: "We approached the governmental and legal bodies that advocate for media freedoms in Palestine, the Journalists Syndicate and the Independent Commission for Human Rights, to review the decision in court. And we are awaiting the final decision to remove the block or maintain it on the 23rd of October.”
"Since the decision was issued according to the Cyber Crime Law, it cannot be appealed, but we can return to the judge and have the decision reviewed. Which is what we did.”
Censorship Effective But Repulsive
Yahya expressed his disgust at the blocking of the media and said: "As a journalist and writer, I reject the claims of some that the blocking does not harm the websites. Blocking does have an effect and is repulsive and is against the zeitgeist, reason and freedoms and must be resisted by all means possible, legal and even technological and we will not spare any effort to reach our followers and readers continuously and we won’t accept being blocked so simply without clear justifications or charges. "
UltraSawt’s Yahaya: Journalism is not a crime. The real reasons and motivation for blocking the leading Palestinian websites, including Arab48 and Metras, are still unknown, but the biggest loser is the Palestinian reader.
The Magistrate 's Court ruled to block 59 websites and accounts on Facebook, for publishing images and media that "threaten national security and civil peace, disturb public order and morals and inflame Palestinian public opinion.”
He added “Journalism is not a crime. We have professional and respectable standards”
The editor of the site Metras Majd Kayal told Raseef22 that the members of the editorial board decided that they "continue to carry out our mission and our national and professional commitment, and we will continue to provide content that is faithful to people's hopes of liberation which includes the monitoring and criticism of power.
A Massacre of Websites
The Magistrate 's Court in Ramallah ruled on October 17 in response to the request of the Palestinian Attorney General to block 59 websites and accounts on Facebook, for publishing images and media that "threaten national security and civil peace, disturb public order and morals and inflame Palestinian public opinion.”
The prosecution claimed that "the reasons for the blocking are due to the fact that the websites are abusing symbols in the Palestinian National Authority and publishing phrases, pictures and articles on the internet that threaten national security and civil peace, disturb public order, public morals, and inflame Palestinian public opinion."
Palestinian media leaked the decision on 21 October. On the same day, the Palestinian government in Ramallah asked the relevant authorities to review the decision to block websites.
In response to this, a government spokesman said "The government respects the international conventions guaranteeing the protection of freedoms, and also respects the independence of the judiciary and non-interference in its affairs”. The spokesman said the government was calling on the court to reevaluate the decision.
The government also appealed to websites and social media pages to maintain professional and ethical standards in what they publish.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate described the decision as a "massacre of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Palestinian media." and described the day the decision was issued as a “black day in the history of Palestinian journalism”
The Association of Journalists inside the Green Line said in a statement that they considered the blocking of the websites "an attack on the freedom of journalistic work and freedom of expression, and the right of the Palestinian public to know and receive information," calling on the court to "reverse the decision, and work to amend article No. 10 of the law of cybercrime that was Issued in 2018 (on which the decision was based) to see a Palestinian society that respects journalism, intellectual pluralism and safeguards media freedoms. "
Sky-line, an international organization concerned with the rights of Journalists also urged the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion to intervene to protect freedom of expression.