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Rights groups question Palestine's electronic crime law

Rights groups question Palestine's electronic crime law
From Al Jazeera - August 11, 2017

Human rights groups are calling on the Palestinian Authority to suspend a new "electronic crimes" law that limits freedom of expression online.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas clamped down on social media and news websites with a vaguely worded decree.

Social media and websites are one of the main outlets for debate and dissent in the occupied West Bank.

Critics say the clampdown allows his government to jail anyone deemed to have breached the new law.

However, aPalestinian prosecutor denied that the decree is being used to stifle dissent and insisted that a new law on electronic crimes was needed to close legal loopholes that in the past allowed offenders, such as hackers, to go unpunished.

READ MORE: Palestinian Authority blocks 11 news websites

Anyone found guilty of acts online that disturb what the edict calls "social harmony" faces up to 15 years of hard labour.

Rights activists say the decree was issued without prior public debate last month and is perhaps the most significant step yet by Abbas' government to restrict freedom of expression in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada),the government blocked 30 websites in the past month.

Journalists questioned

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