UNESCO Ramallah Office Celebrated the World Press Freedom Day
On 10 May 2012 the Media Development Center at Birzeit University, in cooperation with UNESCO and Canal France International, organized a seminar in Gaza to discuss the legal and ethical framework for journalism in Palestine. Also under this partnership, a similar event had been held in the West Bank on 2 May, marking the first commemoration of World Press Freedom Day since Palestine’s admission as a UNESCO Member State.
Around 160 participants attended both the seminars, The event in West Bank took place at the premises of MDC/Birzeit University. Mr. Derek Elias, Head of UNESCO Ramallah Office had the opening speech while several well known speakers were present among them was Mr. Aref Hijjawi, Media Expert, Mr. Ghassan Al-Khatib, Director of the Government Media Center; Mr. Abdul Rahim Abdullah, Lecturer at MDC/BZU; Mr. Abdel Nasser Al Najjar, Head of the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate; Mrs. Nahed Abu Teimeh, Journalist; Mr. Walid Al Shurafa, Head of Media Department – BZU; Mrs. Kholod Massalha, Ilam Tam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel; Mrs. Zolfa Shahror, Correspondant at WAFA Agency; Mr. Emad Al-Asfar, Programms Director at PBC and the guest speaker was the Canadian attorney Mr. Toby Mandel, Center for Law and Democracy .
The Gaza event took place at the Rotes Restaurant in Gaza. Speakers included Ali Agha, the coordinator of MDC/Birzeit University in Gaza; Mohammed Arouki, National Liaison Officer for the UNESCO Office in Gaza; Adel Saleh, a political science lecturer at Egyptian universities; Ahmad Abul Wafa, Director of the Egyptian Middle East Press Agency in Palestine; Tawfik Abu Shomar, writer and political analyst; Mohsen Afranji, journalist and instructor at Islamic University; Rula Elayyan, producer at Al-Arabya Channel; Musatfa Ibrahim, writer; Fathi Sabah, correspondent at Al-Haya Newspaper; Ra’fat Hamdona, Director of the Prisoners’ Center for Studies; and Samar Daremli, journalist.
Throughout the seminar, presentations highlighted the need to continue raising awareness about press freedom and to work toward strengthening the legal framework for journalism in Palestine, while also promoting high ethical standards in media professionals’ coverage.
Political interference and violations of Palestinian journalists’ rights were also discussed, along with the consequent spread of self-censorship. It was stressed that the difficult situation in which local journalists undertake their job often leads them to avoid tackling important issues, resulting in a loss of credibility and in the Palestinian public paying more attention to foreign media.
The way in which the broader fracture among political lines in Palestine is reflected in news coverage and journalists’ representation was an important aspect pointed out by presenters. However, they also noted the impact of the economic environment, and instances of lack of editorial independence not only from public, but also from powerful private interests.
The importance of empowering journalists and fostering quality reporting, through increased efforts in the field of media education and training, was another focus of the discussions. Illustrating the importance of professionalism in reporting, references were made to specific issues of concern to Palestinians, such as coverage related to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Allowing for an exchange of regional experiences, the presence of experts from Egypt provided the chance for Palestinian participants to learn more about the transformation of the Egyptian media landscape following the uprisings that started in early 2011.
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