This session aimed to enhance the participants’ awareness on cyber blackmail, its methods and causes, how women can be protected from it and the extent of the legal texts’ adequacy contained in the Cybercrime Law to limit this crime.
electronic blackmail in the Palestinian society
The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development—REFORM implemented an awareness-raising session entitled: “The impact of cyber blackmail on women and social stability and cohesion,” via the electronic application, ZOOM. This session included the participation of Ms. Maha Zaghari, a psychosocial specialist and project coordinator at Women Media and Development—TAM, Ms. Majdoleen Natour, a social worker, and Mr. Farid Al-Atrash, Director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights’ South West Bank Office and a human rights activist, along with the project’s beneficiaries and community activists. This session aimed to enhance the participants’ awareness on cyber blackmail, its methods and causes, how women can be protected from it and the extent of the legal texts’ adequacy contained in the Cybercrime Law to limit this crime.
Financing for this initiative was made possible by the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), a flexible and rapid financing tool supporting quality interventions to enhance the capacity of women in Palestine and around the world working to prevent conflict, respond to crises and seize key peacebuilding opportunities. With technical support from UN Women Palestine, this project comes in light of the challenges that women encounter, particularly in Area C and H2 areas of the Hebron Governorate.
Mrs. Shireen Al-Hajal, the project coordinator, indicated that the phenomenon of electronic blackmail began to rapidly spread in the Palestinian society. Ms. Majdoleen Natour discussed the definition, causes and methods of electronic blackmail, where she indicated that the victim is also subjected to moral, material, physical and/or emotional blackmail by sharing pictures or videos on social media. She further discussed an initiative that focuses on protecting women from electronic blackmail and how assistance is provided through gathering information on the situation in order to examine its seriousness. Then, the case is transferred to the Cybercrime Department in the Palestinian Police in order to start legal procedures. Also, she addressed how many victims of cyber blackmail refuse to resort to the police, but rather to tribal committees. Ms. Natour further highlighted the problems that the police encounter when the case isn’t within the authority’s jurisdiction, such as C Areas. Accordingly, Ms. Natour stressed the necessity of securing one’s social media accounts and monitoring one’s children while they are using social media.
Raising awareness on the methods and causes of cyber blackmail
Furthermore, Mr. Farid Al-Atrash addressed the extent of the legal texts’ sufficiency contained in the Cybercrimes Law in limiting electronic blackmail. He further indicated that the Cybercrime Law is insufficient without the adoption of the Family Protection Law. Mr. Atrash also stressed the importance of educating women on electronic crimes and how to use their smartphones and social media. He also referred to the complex geographic situation in Palestine, as there are areas that aren’t within the authority’s legal jurisdiction, C Areas, thus causing difficulty in following up with those cases. Additionally, Mr. Atrash indicated that the punishment for committing cyber blackmail ranges from 1- 3 years in prison.
Ms. Maha Zaghari highlighted the importance of educating young men and young women on how to use social media, protecting their information and not communicating with the blackmailer under any circumstances. She further explained that in the event any photo or video of the victim was posted on social media, then the blackmailer is the one who will be legally pursued, even if the victim is the one who sent the photo. She also indicated that if the photos are posted onto Facebook through blackmail, then one is able to report it to Facebook’s administration, where they will then be taken down.
ABOUT the project
This session comes as part of the “Women in Conflict Prevention in Hebron – Palestine” Project, implemented by The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development—REFORM, in partnership with the Rural Women’s Development Society (RWDS) and in cooperation with the Arab Educational Institute. This project aims to increase women’s participation in decision-making processes and enhance the role of both women and men in building safe societies responsive to the needs of women.
The Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) mobilizes critical financial support for local and grassroots civil-society organizations working on women, peace and security and humanitarian action. Since its launch in 2016, WPHF has funded over 200 civil-society organizations in 25 countries supporting women on the front lines to be a force for crisis response and lasting peace.