Cybercrime law draws mixed reactions among palestinians

Loose terms

Journalists have denounced the implementation of the new law because of the blatant violation it imposes on the freedom of opinion and expression. Journalist Mamdouh Hamamra, one of the victims of this law, has described the new law as a “sword on the necks of innocent journalists”. Meanwhile, journalist Mahdulin Hassouna has said that the law is one of the most serious of the measures imposed by the Authority, and allows the arrest of any Palestinian citizen who wants to express his/her personal opinion, demanding its revocation. Journalist Fathi Sabah, the correspondent of the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper and director of the Palestinian Institute for Communication and Development, said in a statement to the Doha Center for Media Freedom that the law was not presented to Palestinian civil society organizations, human rights organizations, the Legislative Council and the Journalists Syndicate. He added that the terms of the law are loose and contradictive.

It also Included strict penalties that grants the court the authority to deprive the convicted from basic rights guaranteed by law. A member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate Omar Nazzal said that the law is a dangerous unprecedented move intended to legitimize violations of freedom of opinion and expression and the privacy of the citizen. Jihad Barakat, a journalist in Palestine Today, stressed that the impact of the law will make every journalist or citizen think carefully before expressing his opinion. Barakat pointed out that the a new law is required to keep up with the technological development and cybercrime, however there should be a difference between granting freedom of opinion and expression and cybercrime. The provisions of the law can be easily used against journalists, he added.

Targeting freedoms

The cybercrime law is worrying experts in the field of electronic media law. Issam Younis, director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, says that the Cybercrime law violates the freedom of opinion and expression and imposes further restrictions, which is inconsistent with the state of Palestine. Meanwhile, the Legal Advisor at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Mohammed Abu Hashim, said that the ratification of the law represents a ‘legal façade’ for violating privacy and public freedoms, as the law will become a tool of repression against those who express their opinion. Article 40 allows the Attorney General or an assistant to make a request to the court to issue a decision to block a website within 24 hours. The new law also includes severe penalties such as imprisonment for 15 years and a fine of up to 5 thousand Jordanian dinars.

Sieging freedom of expression

Al-Dameer Muhannad Karajah's lawyer explains that the cybercrime law gave the authorities a justification to extend the detention of journalists who were arrested in the West Bank. According to article 20, concerning "the publication of news that compromise the integrity of the state, its public order or internal or external security”, the accused shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of a minimum of one year or a fine of a minimum of one thousand dinars. "This law restricts the freedom of opinion and expression and human rights and intrudes the freedom of the press. This law ignores the Palestinian Basic Law and all the agreements signed by the Authority. It came to criminalize freedom of opinion and expression.

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