The media reported that the Attorney General issued a decision to block news websites in the West Bank through instructions given to the companies providing internet services in the West Bank without having any declared or published orders. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) stresses that blocking the news websites is an illegal measure as the Court only can block these websites according to the law. PCHR also highlights that any unwritten orders given to the internet companies is a serious violation of transparency and constitutes replacing the law by intimidation.
According to the media reports and PCHR’s follow-up, many websites were blocked. Their number varied according to the companies providing the internet services. Some sources confirmed the number of blocked websites reached 40 while some other sources stated they were only 12; all of them are affiliated to Hamas Movement or Mohammed Dahalan, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). PCHR was sure about blocking 8 websites namely: the Palestinian Information Center Shehab News Agency, Fateh Voice, Palestine Online, Palestine Press News Agency, Palestine News Network SHFA, and Omamah News website.
PCHR highlights that blocking websites is an exclusive power for the court. The Attorney General has no power to issue such a decision whatsoever the justifications were. Article (27-3) of the Palestinian Basic Law 2003 provides, “Censorship of the media shall be prohibited. No warning, suspension, confiscation, cancellation or restriction shall be imposed upon the media except by law, and pursuant to a judicial ruling.”
Therefore, even if there is a written decision issued by the Attorney General, it is illegal. Any affected body can resort to the judiciary to drop this decision.
PCHR underscores that the Attorney General is obliged to unveil his decisions to the public. PCHR is further concerned that non-issuance of a written and official decision by the Attorney General aims at shielding the decision against any judicial censorship. Moreover, PCHR stresses that the internet companies do not have to commit to any verbal decision issued by any authority, taking in consideration it is dishonorable in form and has no legal consequences.
PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to make a statement to confirm or reject blocking the websites. In case there is a decision to block these websites, PCHR calls for abolishing it because it is unlawful.
PCHR highlights the right of all individuals and those affected by the decision to resort to the judiciary and filed a case against the internet companies until they reveal the blocking reasons, paving the way for challenging any decision that would have been issued by the Attorney General or any other competent authority.