UNESCO, CFI, MDC and the BZU Media Department hosted celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Palestine


2012-05-03

From right: Naser Abu Baker (Palestinian Journalist Syndicate), Aref Hijjawi (journalist and media expert), Nahed Aby Teimah (journalist and lecturer at Al-Quds University), Abdelrahim Abdallah (Media Department at Birzeit University) and Toby Mendel were among the speakers of the World Press Freedom Day in Palestine


Yesterday, on May 2 2012, UNESCO, Canal France International (CFI), the Media Development Center (MDC) and the Media Department organized a celebratory seminar to mark World Press Freedom Day centred on the theme Legal and Ethical Framework for Journalism in Palestine: Challenges in a New Media Environment.

More than 70 people took part in the event at Birzeit University in the West Bank, which was arranged with assistance from key media stakeholders in Palestine. The event hosted a list of both local and international influential and inspiring speakers who pointed to the major issues concerning the status of press freedom in Palestine.

Dr. Munir Qazzaz, Vice-President for Community Outreach at Birzeit University and Head of UNESCOs Office in Ramallah, Derek Elias opened the event and thanked the MDC and CFI for their efforts in making the event possible.

Elias emphasized UNESCOs activities for supporting free press and addressed especially the importance of new media in an area like Palestine especially in Gaza where the siege limits access for journalists.

Internet, social media, and blogs are the only way for people to break isolation, said Elias.

Moderator of the event, Abdelrahim Abdallah from the Media Department at Birzeit University, compared Palestinian media to a ballet dancer performing on a slippery ground as journalists try to adapt to the sensitive surroundings they work in and the societal and political walls put up around them by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Adding to this Nahed Abu Teimeh, Journalist and Lecturer at Al-Quds University, spoke of the difficulties and oppression of female journalists in Palestine. And Kholod Massalha from Ilam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel described incidents of censorship and discrimination of Palestinian journalists working in Israel such as state monitoring, censorship and difficulties for Palestinian journalists in attaining an Israeli GPO press card.

To address specifically the legal framework for Palestinian journalists, key speaker, Toby Mendell - Executive Director of the Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy pointed to the lack of a fully proper environment for traditional media in Palestine including a media law that guarantees freedom of opinion and expression as stated in Article 19 in the Declaration of Human Rights.

Walid Shurafa, Head of the Media Department at Birzeit University, shared this view saying:

There is a flirtatious relationship between media and authorities where the private media organizations flirt with the PA, which has the right to take away its jurisdiction. This causes selective criticism which serves other agendas than freedom of speech.

Other speakers of the day included Dr. Ghassan Al-Khatib, Director of the Government Media Center, Naser Abu Baker from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Aref Hijjawi, Journalist and Media Expert, Zolfa Shahror, Correspondent at WAFA Agency and Head of the Syndicate of WAFA Workers and Emad Al-Asfar, Programs Director at Palestine TV.

As journalists and media professionals from Gaza were not able to take part in the event, a similar event is scheduled in Gaza City on May 10.

The great turnout and the enthusiastic and critical debates among participants made the event a great success, which the MDC hopes to repeat next year.

World Press Freedom Day, commemorated every 3rd of May, was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, following a recommendation adopted by UNESCOs General Conference in 1991. This year, UNESCOs global WPFD event was held in Tunis, and focused on New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies.


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