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Human Rights Watch: Palestine cracks down on free speech, media

Human Rights Watch: Palestine cracks down on free speech, media

PanARMENIAN.Net - Palestinian authorities are silencing dissent by cracking down on free speech and abusing local journalists and activists critical of their policies, a leading international human rights group said Tuesday, August 30, according to the Associated Press.

Human Rights Watch said both the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and its rival, the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, are "arresting, abusing, and criminally charging journalists and activists who express peaceful criticism of the authorities."

In 2007, Hamas ousted Abbas' Fatah forces from Gaza in bloody street battles, leaving the Palestinians divided between two governments. Attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and both Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority have periodically launched crackdowns against their rivals in efforts to consolidate power.

"The Palestinian governments in both Gaza and the West Bank are arresting and even physically abusing activists and journalists who express criticism on important public issues," said Sari Bashi, the Israel and Palestine country director at Human Rights Watch.

HRW said that in the West Bank, Palestinian forces arrested activists and musicians who "ridiculed Palestinian security forces" and "accused the government of corruption" in statements posted on Facebook or stated in graffiti and rap songs.

In Gaza, the rights group said an activist who criticized Hamas for "failing to protect a man with a mental disability" was detained and intimidated by the group, as was a journalist who "posted a photograph of a woman looking for food in a garbage bin."

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