Following this month’s battle between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, the messaging app WhatsApp has blocked the accounts of hundreds of Palestinian journalists, according to reports.
Two journalists in AFP’s Gaza City bureau received messages from WhatsApp in Arabic telling them that their accounts had been blocked shortly after a truce went into effect at 2:00 a.m. on Friday (2300 GMT Thursday), ending 11 days of deadly fighting.
Other journalists said their accounts had been blocked in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and Gaza.After filing a complaint with WhatsApp’s owner, Facebook, a crew from the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al Jazeera said their accounts had been restored.
The vice president of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Tahseen al-Astall, said “around 100 journalists” in Gaza had seen their accounts blocked.
Even though the Palestinian militant group has been blacklisted by the European Union and the United States for belonging to “groups and organizations engaged in terrorist actions,” Gaza journalists receive Hamas statements, including through WhatsApp, as an essential part of reporting on both sides of the conflict.
The blocking of WhatsApp accounts was not an isolated event, according to the Arab Center for the Development of Social Media.
The organization, based in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, reported 500 cases of Palestinian “digital rights” violations between May 6 and May 19.
“Content and accounts were removed, reduced and restricted, hashtags were hidden, and archived content deleted,” the report said.
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