The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the announcement by its affiliate in Palestine, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), to develop a code of ethics for Palestinian journalists and establish an independent press council.
“This is excellent news for both Palestinian Journalists and the Palestinian people who will ultimately benefit from structures that improve the ethical standards and independence of their journalism,” said Wolfgang Mayer, IFJ Treasurer.
“It is also a tribute to the efforts of the new leadership of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate to set about a serious programme of reform and renewal of Palestinian journalism,” an IFJ statement released today said.
Hamas attacks Gaza journalists and their union.
There is considerable turmoil around the issue of journalist freedom and independence especially in Gaza where Hamas has regularly attacked journalists and their union.
In October the IFJ attacked Hamas for refusing to allow Gaza based journalist members of the union to meet with an international delegation of journalists visiting the region – and the decision by Hamas to shut down the Gaza office of the journalist union.
The journalist union had been holding workshops to create a “modern constitution” to unite journalists across Palestine and prevent a split in the syndicate, according to Menassat, a website focussing on media issues in the Middle East and North Africa.
This action by Hamas has also been severely criticised by both the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA).
MADA released a statement saying that in a flagrant violation of freedom of expression the Hamas controlled internal security service raided the union headquarters in the Gaza Strip on October 12 and told journalists the union office was closed until further notice.
ANHRI also condemned the raid and noted that this was not the first assault on media freedoms in the strip and on the Journalists Syndicate as Hamas security raided the syndicate more than two months ago and seized all computers and never gave them back.
MADA has also attacked Hamas for banning a number of Gaza journalists who wanted to leave to travel or study abroad.
Ethics and media self-regulation in Palestine
The announcement of the creation of a Press Council followed a two day meeting of Palestinian journalists and editors hosted by the PJS in Ramallah on ethics and media self-regulation.
Also participating were Wolfgang Mayer, IFJ Treasurer and member of the German Press Council, and Kjetil Haanes from Unesco Norway and former Chair of the Norwegian Press Council.
“A press council is important in order to protect and strengthen the editorial freedom, to promote media quality and to strengthen democracy,” said Dr. Abdel Nasser Najjar, PJS Chairman.
At a meeting with the government media director Ghassan Khatib and deputy minister of information Amutawakel Taha, the IFJ and PJS representatives stressed that the state should never interfere in the content of the media, and that the role of the state is to be a facilitator for press freedom and freedom of speech.
Journalist Union plans August 2011 congress
The PJS also announced that the next PJS congress will be held on August 7, 2011.
The meeting was part of the IFJ’s regional Ethical Journalism Initiative Campaign that is supported by Unesco Norway and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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