Backlash after PA silences Critics


Washington, April 27 - A top Palestinian official has resigned after the government of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas moved to silence Internet sites carrying opposition voices.

Communications minister Mashour Abu Daqa said he was stepping down Thursday night after Abbas’ attorney general ordered several websites critical of the government shut down. Government forces also arrested four journalists and an anti-corruption activist who have censured Abbas and other Palestinian officials on Facebook.

Daqa said the Internet censorship was “bad for the image of the Palestinian Authority in the modern world.”

The websites reportedly supported Abbas rival and former PA official Mahmoud Dahlan, who was a top security official in Abbas’ cabinet until 2007, when Iran-backed Hamas seized control of Gaza. Dahlan had been in charge of security for the PA in the coastal enclave.

Hamas, a terrorist group that rules Gaza, is notorious for its censorship efforts in an effort to maintain an iron-fisted rule over the territory. Yet mainstream media in the West Bank is largely sympathetic to Abbas’ government, with dissenters using social media such as Facebook to air their views.

The U.S. government also criticized the moves to restrict freedom of expression in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction.

“We are concerned about any uses of technology that would restrict access to information,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday. “We’ve had these concerns in other parts of the world, and we wouldn’t want to see the PA going in the direction that some of those regimes have gone in.”

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