On Wednesday, 11 December 2019, at about 11:00am, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights organized a specialized workshop in Gaza City for experts and relevant actors on freedom of opinion and expression on social media platforms ahead of the center’s anticipated report on the topic.
Mr. Basem Abu Jray, a researcher at Al Mezan, welcomed the participants and provided a brief overview of Al Mezan's relevant work on freedom of expression, and stressed that the workshop was aimed at starting a discussion on the state of freedom of opinion and expression on social networks, and soliciting recommendation from attendees for an upcoming report on the subject.
Mr. Issam Younis, Director General of Al Mezan, spoke about the importance of freedom of opinion and expression as a human right, and the relevance thereof for the Palestinian society whose right to exercise freedom of expression and opinion is not only under threat from the Israeli occupation but also faces challenges emanating from the Palestinian political division. Mr. Younis pointed to the freedoms afforded by social media platforms, and the restrictions and violations that users are systematically exposed to, whether at the hands of law enforcement agencies, other users, or content moderators. He refuted the reasonings put forth by the Cybercrime Law to curtail freedom of opinion and expression, and stressed the need to reach equitable solutions that minimize restrictions and enhance public freedoms.
Mr. Hussein Hammad, a researcher at Al Mezan, presented a draft of the Center’s upcoming report on the freedom of opinion and expression on social media platforms. The report examines legal standards governing freedom of opinion and expression in international conventions and domestic legislations. It also presents documented violations and discusses their social and psychological effects on users, and on human rights overall.
The workshop participants represented various actors, including the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, the Government Media Office, civil society organizations and media institutions, journalists, and social media activists. Participants commended Al Mezan’s showcasing of the issue through a specialized human rights report, and presented their views, observations and recommendations about the draft report. In conclusion of the workshop, Mr. Hammad answered the participants’ queries, stressing that their comments would be taken into consideration and their recommendation will be incorporated into the report set for publication in a few weeks.