17 października 2019 r. sąd w Ramallah przychylił się do prośby prokuratora generalnego Autonomii Palestyńskiej (AP), Akrama Al-Chatiba, by zablokować 59 stron internetowych i kont Facebooka na podstawie tego, że zawierają „wyrażenia i obrazy, które zagrażają bezpieczeństwu narodowemu i porządkowi publicznemu, naruszają normy porządku i obyczajności, podżegają do zamieszek w społeczeństwie palestyńskim” i „atakują i obrażają symbole AP”[1]. Wiele z zablokowanych stron identyfikuje się z rywalami palestyńskiego prezydenta Mahmouda ‚Abbasa, a szczególnie z Hamasem i z obozem Muhammada Dahlana, i często dają one wyraz ostrej krytyce polityki AP[2].

Decyzja wywołała oburzenie wśród dziennikarzy, intelektualistów, działaczy na rzecz wolnej prasy i organizacji palestyńskiego społeczeństwa obywatelskiego, jak również kilku funkcjonariuszy AP. Przewodniczący Palestyńskiego Związku Dziennikarzy, Nasser Abu Bakr, nazwał to „czarnym dniem w historii palestyńskiego dziennikarstwa”, dodając, że ta decyzja pogwałciła wolność prasy i miała polityczną motywację[3]. Sam Związek Dziennikarzy i Niezależna Komisja Praw Człowieka AP zaapelowali do Sądu Konstytucyjnego AP, by unieważnił tę decyzję[4]. Członkini Komitetu Wykonawczego OWP, Hanan ‚Ashrawi, wyraziła zdumienie tą decyzją i zażądała odwołania jej przez odpowiednie władze oraz zrewidowania praw AP o cyberprzestępstwach[5].

Także premier Muhammad Sztajjeh sprzeciwił się blokowaniu stron, ponieważ narusza to zasadę wolności słowa, która jest zapisana w prawie AP i w międzynarodowych konwencjach, i wezwał do anulowania decyzji[6]Rzecznik rządu AP wydał oświadczenie w podobnym duchu[7]. Nie jest jednak jasne, czy to stanowisko rządu, sprzeczne ze stanowiskiem prokuratora generalnego i sądu AP, odzwierciedla rzeczywistą różnicę zdań w kierownictwie AP na legalne sposoby walki z opozycja, czy też jedynie ma na celu stworzenie wrażenie, szczególnie na Zachodzie, że Palestyńczycy popierają wolność słowa, aby uniknąć międzynarodowego potępienia.

W tym kontekście należy wspomnieć, że w ostatnich miesiącach prezydent AP, Abbas, dokonał licznych zmian w palestyńskim systemie sądowniczym, na przykład, przez zmuszanie sędziów do przejścia na emeryturę i rozwiązanie Wysokiej Rady Sądowniczej, i mianowanie w jej miejsce tymczasowej rady[8]. Niektórzy uważają te kroki za rażącą ingerencję w sądownictwo, które ma być niezależne, jak również podważanie rozdziału władz[9]. Ponadto w przeszłości Abbas nie wahał się używania sądów do walki ze swoimi rywalami politycznymi, na przykład w grudniu 2018 r., kiedy Konstytucyjny Sąd AP, który ustanowił, rozwiązał Palestyńską Radę Ustawodawczą, w której Hamas miał większość[10]. Nie po raz pierwszy również AP zablokowała strony internetowe swoich przeciwników. W czerwcu 2017 r. ówczesny prokurator generalny, Ahmad Barak, rozkazał zablokowanie 11 stron związanych z Hamasem i obozem Dahlana[11].

Sprzeciw wobec decyzji sądu wyrażono także w artykułach w prasie palestyńskiej za wyjątkiem tuby AP, „Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. Argumentując, że zablokowanie stron odzwierciedla przestarzałą i niedemokratyczną mentalność, i że wolna i śmiała prasa jest w rzeczywistości źródłem siły dla państwa, wzywano w tych artykułach AP do popierania publicznej debaty zamiast dławienia innego zdania,

Poniżej podajemy fragmenty dwóch z tych artykułów.

 

[Ciąg dalszy tekstu nie jest spolszczony] 


Cartoon in the daily Al-Quds on the decision to block the websites (Al-Quds, Jerusalem, October 22, 2019)

Palestinian Columnist: Even Third World Countries Realize That Blocking Websites Is Pointless

In his column in the PA daily Al-Ayyam, ‚Abd Al-Ghani Salameh likened the Ramallah court’s decision to the attempts by 20th century dictatorial regimes to restrict the freedom of the press, attempts that only hastened their downfall. This mentality, he said, is obsolete and must pass from the world, since the most stable and prosperous states are actually the ones that have a robust opposition and a free press. He wrote: „The totalitarian and dictatorial regimes of the world all used to strictly censor the media, prevent any exposure to foreign media, and force their security policy and their political and ideological perceptions upon the citizenry. This was achieved by means of an obsequious press and a group of recruited journalists and writers, [and by means of] a vapid official discourse [consisting of] revolutionary slogans and overused pre-prepared statements that glorified the supreme leader and the state’s many achievements, vilified the enemies of the revolution and the homeland, and cursed the opposition, [accusing it of serving] shady foreign agendas. Despite all this, the peoples rose up and rebelled, and the [dictatorial] governments fell and were replaced.

„Today, after the communications revolution, in the age of satellite channels, the internet, social media and smartphones, and an unprecedentedly open [flow of information] among the various parts of the world, it is no longer possible to censor people’s awareness or to direct them. The governments can no longer restrict the citizens’ freedom of choice and determine their ideological or political orientation… Even in the Third World governments have realized that there is no point in blocking websites or restricting the flow of information, news and images. Only North Korea has not yet joined the [modern] age, and it seems that the Magistrate Court in Ramallah regards it as an inspiring model for emulation…

„Attempts to exclude the opposition through [measures of] state oppression [such as] gagging people, filling prisons with protesters and activists, and assassinating [dissidents]… have always failed. In fact, such measures usually boomerang against the government, and a brief glance at the Arab Spring revolutions is sufficient to clarify this picture.

„The safe, stable and prosperous countries are the ones that have a strong opposition, active [political] parties and labor unions, freedom of speech and of thought, and a powerful press. In these countries nobody can even conceive of a military coup taking place, and in the rare cases where it does occur, it [tends to] fail. The masses of today are not the masses of yesterday. Today people are open and aware, and understand what is happening around them… [The protests] in Lebanon and Iraq are the latest examples of this. In the Israeli Knesset, for example, the second-largest party becomes the official opposition, and not only is it not oppressed, but it is granted many rights and a role in decision-making. It is no secret that the strength and resilience of a country are rooted in the existence of a free and bold press, that [can] criticize any senior figure, and whoever follows the [Israeli] Hebrew press sees how every journalist and writer dares to write whatever he wants and to criticize any minister.

„[Conversely,] in Ramallah, the Magistrate Court decided to block 59 online news websites. This decision sparked a considerable wave of condemnation, notably including a statement by the [PA] government itself calling to reverse the decision. The [Palestinian] Journalists Union described the decision as an assassination of freedom of speech and thought and a black day in the history of Palestinian journalism…

„The most appropriate way to fortify public order is first of all to investigate the reasons for its fragility, address them as much as possible and invite public discourse that is modern and appealing in [both] form and content, which respects the public’s intelligence and [its various political] orientations. As for fake news, rumors and smear campaigns, they should not be handled by blocking [websites] but through transparency, high-quality media performance, open communication with the people about every subject, and a law ensuring freedom of information. The government must realize that gagging people always produces the opposite result.

„The approach of the [Ramallah] court, which regards itself as the guardian of the people and thinks that the citizens are a herd of minors in need of supervision and guidance, reflects a paternalistic perception that belongs to the past. The very act of blocking [media outlets] indicates poor performance and a lack of [mutual] trust between the government and the public, and exposes the extent of [the court’s] ignorance of modern technology. Experience shows that no country has ever successfully implemented a policy of blocking [the media]. Today almost every citizen has social media accounts, and every report, article or image that is blocked can be downloaded to one’s personal computer and disseminated [even] more widely… Blocking such a large number of sites contravenes all the past governments’ commitments and understandings with the Journalists Union, and also contravenes the promises of the current prime minister, [Muhammad Shtayyeh], to ensure the freedom of the media. This is also an opportunity to mention the cybercrime law, which has become a sword hanging over the necks of the journalists and columnists, and also blackens the image of Palestine in terms of protecting journalists and the freedom of speech. It is inconceivable that this law should be implemented using tools dating back to the 1960s and 1970s! This is a wretched mentality, and it is time for it to pass from the world.”[12]

Palestinian Writer: If We Fail To Allow Democratic Discourse, We Will Surely Fail To Achieve National Liberation

Another Al-Ayyam columnist, ‚Abd Al-Majid Sweilem, expressed understanding for the court’s decision to block the websites, which, he said, are waging a systematic campaign to sabotage the Palestinian national enterprise and some of them are even supported by Israel. He stressed, however, that gagging all opposition media was an unacceptable and oppressive measure, and that the solution actually lay in developing a culture of democratic discourse in the PA. He wrote: „The timing of this decision – amid the democratic momentum [we are seeing] in several neighboring Arab countries, and in light of the legitimate leadership’s determination to hold elections in order to thwart the intentions… of those who [propose] alternative plans or substitutes for the Palestinian national enterprise, [and also in order to thwart] the regional agendas intended to dismantle and dissolve the unity and legitimacy of the PLO in the eyes of the Palestinian people[13] – [this timing] will place us all, [the Palestinian] people and national leadership, in a very difficult political situation, and will provide all our rivals with new ammunition with which to advance their plans…

„We all know how these websites and [social media] accounts are used to harm our national enterprise, and we all follow the huge amounts of lies, fabrications and rumors that some of them disseminate… We all know that some of them are operated by corrupt and even hostile [elements]. In fact, we all know there is sufficient evidence that some of them are funded by Israel, directly or indirectly. At the same time, we also know that some of them [just] disagree with us, but are not our enemies, and are entitled to wage a [political] campaign against us, just as we wage such a campaign against them…

„Some of us perhaps know that the list of [websites] that have been blocked… does not encompass the entire campaign that is being waged against us, against our [national] enterprise, and against our rights and goals, and that there is daily plotting aimed at blackening our image, harming our [national] identity and destroying our reputation. This [campaign, which] is organized and funded in a skilled and professional manner, at the highest levels… is actually another reason to enhance our national awareness, improve our performance and examine our consciousness, not to ban and block [websites] and take other oppressive measures.

„Blocking [websites] is a sign of helplessness, not of national strength. It is [part of] an obsolete culture, which does not suit our situation and circumstances, and plays into the hands of all those who attack us… Why not [establish] websites [promoting national] awareness and truth, skilled at responding and [proposing an alternative] discourse, which will be able to present proof, arguments and evidence [against our detractors]?

„[And] why are we on the defensive in the first place, and blocking [websites]? Is it because they [i.e., the opposition] are democratic and we are not?! I say once again that we are the most qualified of democrats, better able [than others] to present a complex and sophisticated discourse. If we fail to present a democratic model [of discourse], we will surely fail to complete our [national] enterprise of liberation.”[14]


[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), October 22, 2019.

[2] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), October 21, 2019.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), October 23, 2019.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 25, 2019.

[5] Maannews.net, October 22, 2019.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), October 23, 2019.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), October 22, 2019.

[8] Wafa.ps, July 18, 2019.

[9] Palestinian attorney Ibrahim Sha’ban, for example, wrote in the Al-Quds daily that these measures contravened the PA Basic Law and undermined the independence of the judiciary. Al-Quds (Jerusalem), August 16, 2019.

[10] For more on the dissolution of the PLC, see the introduction to MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1433, Fatah-Hamas Schism Widens Further Following Ruling By Palestinian Authority Constitutional Court – Established By Palestinian Authority President ‚Abbas – To Disband Palestinian Legislative Council, January 22, 2019. For PA criticism of the concentration of powers in the hands of ‚Abbas, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5419, Opposition To ‚Abbas Emerging Within Palestinian Authority: Senior Fatah Members Criticize Government For Anti-Democratic Methods, Corruption, August 23, 2013.

[11] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 15, 2017.

[12] Al-Ayyam (PA), October 23, 2019.

[13] The reference is apparently to Iran and Qatar, which supports Hamas and/or to the UAE, which supports the Dahlan camp.

[14] Al-Ayyam (PA), October 24, 2019.