NGO blasts Palestinian attacks on free speech


Human Rights Watch this week issued a damning report on the lack of freedom of speech in the Palestinian territories.

The report detailed the arrests and torture of journalists, activists and even rap artists who have criticised government policy in the areas controlled by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Journalists and activists have been persecuted for, among other things, drawing attention to poverty, the treatment of mentally disturbed individuals and co-operation with Israel.

The report said: "At a time when many Palestinians are critical of their leaders, the crackdowns have a chilling effect on public debate in the traditional news media, and on social media."

HRW emphasised that "these leaders have remained in power for a decade with no elections planned".

According to the NGO, the split in the Palestinian leadership, with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority ruling the West Bank and Hamas in charge in Gaza, is a motivation for authorities in both areas to suppress dissent.

Hamas denied the findings of the HRW report while the PA said its officials were working to address the issues raised in the document.

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