The ministry of communications of the Hamas
government in Gaza
announced on Thursday it would block access to pornographic websites starting in September, the Ma'an news agency reported.
Gaza communications minister Osama al-Issawi explained that the move was meant to protect Palestinian society and preserve the fabric of society in the Gaza Strip.
licensing head Kamal al-Masr said they the authorities had asked the 10 main Internet providers operating in Gaza to block the sites from Sept. 1, after a government decision a week earlier.
Gaza ministry's ban notice
Any violations of the decision will be punished under Palestinian communications and penal law, he added.
In 2008, the Gaza government announced the Palestinian telecommunications provider would begin blocking adult content.
Testing by the Canada- and US-based university coalition Open Net Initiative shortly afterward showed PalTel had implemented filtering of sexually explicit websites in Gaza.
But al-Masr said the government was only now responding to complaints from parents and teachers. He stressed that the ministry itself is not blocking the sites, but asking ISPs to implement safe content standards used "internationally".
In late April the Palestinian Authority was found to have blocked access to nine websites critical of the president. The filtering plan was reversed in early May.
Until now, the Hamas government's anti-porn battle was carried out in the PR arena. The current move has raised a great deal of interest on Palestinian forums originating in the Gaza Strip.
Some web surfers praised the decision, but there were many who questioned the government's ability to implement the move. "With all due respect, there are an abundance of methods to bypass any blocked website, even if it is immoral," one forum member noted.
This is not the first time that the Hamas government carries out controversial decisions that infringe upon individual freedoms. In the past Gazan women were prevented from smoking hookahs in public or ride on motorcycles. The Hamas police have even arrested women caught breaking the laws.