Friday, April 26, 2013

26-Apr-13: When it's the news reporters that demand a ban on news reporting...

This photo accompanied a September 2011 article headlined "MADA campaigns amidst precarious media freedom in Palestine". MADA is the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Israeli professional journalist whose integrity places him in a class of his own discloses some of what the mainstream media ignore or fail to see in a piece published today: "Palestinian Journalists Declare War On Israeli Colleagues". A brief excerpt:
It is one thing when governments and dictators go after journalists, but a completely different thing when journalists start targeting their counterparts. An Israeli journalist [recently] had his microphone damaged during an assault, while another was thrown out of a press conference. Behind the two incidents were Palestinian journalists, angered by the presence of Israelis in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities. The threats and harassment came as more than 200 Palestinian journalists signed a petition, for the first time ever, calling on the Palestinian Authority to ban Israeli correspondents from operating in its territories "without permission."
The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has complied, issuing instructions requiring Israeli journalists to obtain permission from its Ministry of Information before entering Palestinian cities. Palestinian Authority officials and journalists later explained that the ban does not apply to some journalists working for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz and who report on "Palestinian suffering"... [more]
Abu Toameh first reported on this regressive move three weeks ago in a Jerusalem Post report ["Israeli reporters covering Palestinians face threats"]. He quoted Jihad Qawassmeh, a senior member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, who confirmed the ban and said it had been issued as a result of pressure from Palestinian journalists.

One of the justifications offered by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate for demanding a ban on Israeli reporting is that they seek to prevent Israelis from
"contributing to misleading and relaying a false and harmful image of the Palestinian reality" [source]
The "moderate" PA had some weeks earlier already imposed a new regulation that forbids foreign journalists from working in the area under its control
unless the journalists get advance permission from the Palestinian Ministry of Information. Foreign members of the press who ignore this order can be arrested, as can any Palestinian journalists who assist foreign journalists to operate without this permission. “The Palestinian security forces are entitled to arrest any person who enters the State of Palestine without permission,” said Jihad Qawassmeh, member of the Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate... [The] new ruling affects all foreign journalists who want to work in Palestinian Authority territories [source]
Perhaps they feel the need to suppress reports like these?
  • Quote: Following two weeks of quiet, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority has resumed its brutal crackdown on journalists and bloggers critical of PA officials. The crackdown, which intensified in January, has specifically targeted journalists and bloggers who expose rampant corruption within PA institutions [source: 2013]
  • Quote: Cairo January 26, 2013 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), denounces the harassments campaign launched by the internal security affiliated to HAMAS movement against the journalists in Gaza strip in order to ban them from participating in any events conducted by their syndicate... [source: 2013]
  • Quote: Murad Soudani, chairman of the Palestinian Writers’ Union, called on the journalists’ syndicate to “shame and remove” Palestinian journalists who met with their Israeli counterparts in Oslo, Norway, on World Free Press Day, May 3. “There is no room for flattery or debate surrounding normalization,” Soudani told Maan News Agency. “Intellectuals and journalists are no substitute for politicians.” Soudani added that such meetings “insert defeat into our Palestinian culture”... [source: 2012]
  • Quote: In an unprecedented move, the Palestinian Authority prosecutor-general on Monday issued an arrest warrant against the chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Naim Toubassi, on charges of financial corruption and slander. The decision to arrest Toubassi, a veteran pro-Fatah journalist and editor, triggered protests from dozens of Palestinian journalists who staged a demonstration outside the PA government offices in Ramallah [source: 2011]
  • Quote: Hamas has been systematically terrorizing Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip - most of whom are members of Fatah - for years. They have been subjected to harassment of many varieties, including beatings and arbitrary arrests. On Tuesday, Hamas took the bull by the horns and forcibly shut down the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate offices in the Strip... [source: 2011]
  • Quote: The Palestinian Journalist Syndicate in Gaza reported Tuesday that members of the Hamas-led security forces in Gaza arrested two Palestinian reporters; one in central Gaza, and the other in the southern part of the Gaza Strip... Hamas security forces broke into the home of Awad in Al Maghazi refugee camp, in central Gaza, and kidnapped him after confiscating his personal computer, documents and a camera from the house... The Syndicate demanded Hamas and its security forces end the violations committed against the reporters, and to prosecute those responsible...  [source: 2011]
And so on and so on. But at the end of the day, so what if the Palestinian Arab reporters put up a wall of silence? It's their territory, their community, their freedoms? Right?

Leave it to Khaled Abu Toameh to explain what's at stake:
"If Palestinian journalists have been so radicalized that some are even willing to resort to threats and violence against colleagues, what must one say about the rest of the Palestinians who, for the past two decades, have also been exposed to messages of hate by their leaders? How can anyone talk about resuming the peace process when Palestinians are being told by their leaders, on a daily basis, how bad and evil Israel is? ...How can any leader go to his people and say that he is negotiating with them?"
Honest Reporting offers a useful survey of some of the other press non-freedoms that increasingly characterize life under the PA/Abbas regime.

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