Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized restrictions put on place by some Arab countries of the Persian Gulf against Qatar-linked media, describing it as a violation of freedom of expression.

“The action [closing down media outlets] is a violation of freedom of expression… Authorities should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression,” Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

“International law on freedom of speech prohibits the banning of peaceful criticism of governments, and crimes such as insulting the president or state authorities,” it added.

The rights watchdog noted that on May 25, Saudi Arabia and the UAE blocked Qatari media outlets, including Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera’s Amman bureau was also closed and stripped of its operating license on June 7, and the channel’s Riyadh bureau was shut down on June 8.

Saudi authorities, on June 9, ordered hotels and other tourist facilities to block all channels related to Al Jazeera, threatening punishment for violators.

It came after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Several other countries also recalled their ambassadors from Doha, while Jordan and Djibouti said they would lower the level of diplomatic contacts with the tiny peninsula.