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Electronic crimes law and Media freedoms were discussed…..

 
Ramallah - A roundtable meeting was held at the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Ramallah, that included a discussion on the reality of Media Freedom in Palestine, and the recent decree that passed few days ago on “Electronic Crimes” that witnessed debates and wide controversy of what it entails of infringing freedom of expression and the rights to privacy.
 
 
 
 
The meeting was organized by the Department of Culture and Information of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms "MADA", with the participation of Attorney General Dr. Ahmad Barak, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi Director of the Department of Culture and Information of the PLO, Mr. Mousa Rimawi, General Director of the Center, and representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Fatwa and Legislation, Security Services, PNGO, and the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity- AMAN, Anti-Corruption Commission, The Independent Commission for Human Rights- ICHR, Birzeit University Media Development Center, Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization- UNESCO, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, Isteqlal Org, PYALARA, and many other human rights, civil society organizations and journalists.
 
 
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi pointed to the status and role of the PLO as a framework for the Palestinian people, stressing the importance of preserving the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law.
 
 
 
 
The Director General of the MADA Center, Mr. Mousa Rimawi, spoke about the significant decline in media freedoms, the latest incident of which was the arrest of a number of journalists in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and previously, the blocking of 29 news sites in the West Bank. He also pointed out that Palestinian violations outnumbered the Israeli ones during the past month. However, the latter are more dangerous to the lives of journalists. He also referred to the procrastination of the government in passing the Freedom of Information Law. He talked about the electronic crimes law, which came into force two days ago where the civil society was not consulted in drafting it and it was issued under strict secrecy. He added that some of its articles affect the right to freedom of expression and privacy rights.
 
 
Many participants criticized the way in which the law was prepared and approved in a state of secrecy and discreetly, and the fact that it was suddenly published away from any previous social discussion. Participants also stressed that many of its articles blatantly violate public freedoms, freedom of expression and the right to privacy, stressing the urgent need to freeze the law, until it is subjected to public debate and amendment. 
 
 
The Attorney-General, Dr. Ahmed Barak, pointed to errors regarding media freedoms and reiterated that he was against the arrest of any journalist on the grounds of freedom of expression issues. He also stressed the importance of a law dealing with electronic crime offenses especially given the increase in the number of complaints related to such crimes. In this regard, he said that the law is in force and will not be suspended. He proposed forming a committee of civil society to follow up closely with him (Attorney General) regarding issues related to the articles relating to freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
 
 
During the meeting, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi proposed forming a committee in which civil society organizations, the General attorney’s Office, the Fatwa and Legislation department, the Ministry of Justice, legal experts and various relevant bodies will be involved. 
The committee will submit amendments to the provisions of the law within a period of time not exceeding one month canceling or modifying the articles that affect freedoms and the right to privacy, demanding that this be done in parallel with the cessation of work in prosecuting any person until such amendments are made.
 
 
Another suggestion was to suspend the law until any amendment procedures on articles relating to freedom of expression and privacy are tackled.
 
The meeting was moderated by Haidar Awadallah, General Coordinator of the Department of Culture and Information in the Palestine Liberation Organization- PLO.