The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms MADA celebrated the World Press Freedom Day by honoring families of martyrs journalists murdered while carrying out their duties, covering the great return march Easter of Gaza strip.
In a conference organized by MADA center entitled as no restrictions on media freedoms, the conference took place in Lighthouse restaurant in Gaza strip, with the participation of a huge number of journalists along with civil society organizations, lawyers, politicians, governmental media office, besides, to media students and various representatives of media departments in universities of Gaza Strip.
The conference was opened by the Project coordinator in Gaza Strip, Ahmad Ibrahim Hammad, who addressed it as an opportunity to bring up all the recent achieved goals, particularly with the efforts done by the center for the last year in monitoring and documenting violations against Palestinian journalists and providing the needed legal aid and consultancy for those in need.
Mr. Hammad also raised up the importance of collaboration between Palestinian media outlets and human rights organization to have this conference is of an important symbol of the significant role of the center to defend Palestinian journalists who are subjected to various types of violations by Israeli and Palestinian sides.
Hammad also hinted to the worrying situation of media freedoms in Palestine, where it is quite different than any other place in the world, in light with the recent media freedom violations recorded in Gaza Strip. Particularly, when honoring those journalists who lost their lives to reveal the truth.
Hammad also highlighted the urgent need to hold all perpetrators accountability, especially that journalists in Gaza are breached from their basic rights to movement, which constitutes a grave breach under international law. Besides, to all severely injured journalists who are denied to be `provided further medical treatment out of Gaza Strip.
Project coordinator Ahmad Hammad, also raised the culture of impunity enjoyed by these perpetrators who are not subjected to any accountability, with the recent target and killing of journalist Ahmad Abu Hussein, numbers of journalists killed by Israeli occupation Forces both in West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2000 topped to 43 journalists.
Hammad also focused on the fast pace and systematic target of journalists by IOF, and the different types of violations they face is usually due to two major reasons, First is the significant role of media and journalists with the strong image that aims to expose these violations to the international community, second, is the culture of impunity enjoyed by Israeli Officers, and settlers that goes without any accountability or redress to victims, which keeps the door wide open to commit further violations but also to take these violations and target to even a new whole level that is more severe and worrying. He also highlighted the fact that, the majority of these violations were deliberate in oppose to how it was published to the world by Israel.
Ahmad Hammad raised up the important role played by the European Union and its continued support the MADA center, and freedom of expression, specially that this conference is part of a 3 years projects funded by the EU entitled as ¨a step forward towards enhancing media freedoms in Palestine, aims to enhance freedom of expression and access to information in Palestine in several means, whether throughout organizing training workshops and enhancing the role of civil society organizations in defending media freedoms, and most importantly is the reopening of the Legal Unit in the center to provide journalists with legal consultancy and defend them before courts in cases of litigation.
It is also worth mentioning that the center recently trained several journalists in Gaza Strip and West Bank on monitoring and documentation, as a step to recruit them in collaborating with the center providing ground affidavits and testimonies.
Israa´Al buheisi Palestinian women journalist, one of those targeted and injured throughout the recent great march in Gaza, addressed her experience in ground, that, Israeli Occupation Forces throughout the weekly peaceful march deliberately target journalist with tear gas bomb, live ammunition, stun grenades. Which reveals the obstacles and the real tragedy in working as journalist in Palestine.
She also raised up the gender impact of working in media, as Palestinian women were driven to work in a field considered dangerous, to at least play as the fourth authority, and started working in areas of conflict,were there are demonstrations and direct confrontations between Palestinian civilians and Israeli Occupation Forces. Despite the fact that, women in the Middle East do rarely occupy key positions in media, but many others left their fingerprints and still Palestinian women are always empowered to participate and work in the field regardless to the many challenges and obstacles they face.
Furthermore, Issam Younis general Director of Al’Mezan center assured that the Israeli Occupation target of journalists and media workers construes a grave breach of Human Rights, rights that are guaranteed and protected under the universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR, particularly the right to life and freedom of expression, besides, the humanitarian law where Geneva Convention the fourth impose protection on journalists as civilians and the additional protocol of the Geneva Convention in its article 79 that guarantees protection to civilians including journalists in times ofwar / occupation that guarantees the Un security Council resolution 1738.
Younis called for an investigation into the killing of journalist Yasser Murtaja and journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein in an attempt to confront the policy of impunity and to promote the enjoyment of protection for Palestinian civilians.
He stressed that in the light of the use of excessive and lethal force in the face of peaceful demonstrations, he called on the international community to take urgent action to investigate violations against journalists and to take immediate measures to protect journalists and media workers as they convey the facts on the ground in attempts to support efforts to stop violations.
The Director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights renewed his call to international institutions, especially interested ones in journalists and press freedoms, to strengthen their solidarity with journalists working in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In his speech, the Director of the Palestinian NGO Network, Amjad Al Shawa, said that the world press freedom day at a time when the Palestinian people are suffering as a result of the Israeli occupation practices in light of the international community’s failure so far to hold the occupation accountable for its violations against Palestinian civilians, We come today in light of these violations and attacks by the occupation forces against the peaceful demonstrators who came to this region to demand their fundamental rights stipulated by international law, humanitarian and the entire human rights system.
Shawa condemned the use of excessive and lethal force in targeting civilians and journalists, and the martyrdom of journalists Yasser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein, who presented the truth and revealed the falsity of the violations committed by the occupation in the march of return.
In his speech, Al-Shawa called for a meeting to discuss the problems of Palestinian journalists, and to solve them and unite the Palestinian press house to confront the Israeli occupation, the narrative and the Israeli media discourse.
He stressed the need for permanent dialogue between the different parties to the media work, calling for the existence of a law of the Journalists Syndicate, which is developed and discussed by the media themselves, and called for the opportunity to all media to work freely.
Shawa said that the problem of the Palestinian media began when the media personnel followed the political system, demanding the work during the coming period to find what he called a national media culture.
During the ceremony, the documentary film “Journalists under Fire” produced by the center was presented, which includes live scenes of some of the what media organizations and journalists faced during the recent war on Gaza Strip, as well as the testimonies of a number of journalists, some of whom were victims of these crimes and the circumstances under which they worked during the war, “Promo” for martyrs Murtaja and Abu Hussein was also presented.
The concert started with the Palestinian national anthem followed with a minute of silence on the martyred journalists.