MADA launches Press Freedom Index in Palestine

Ramallah /PNN/

Press Freedom Index in Palestine issued important recommendations in order to build professional and independent media.

The most important recommendation was to assure the need to form a higher media council independent of the government that ensures respect for press freedom and regulates the media.

The Media Freedom Index in Palestine explain the importance of adoption of a law on the right to access to information and the necessary mechanisms for its implementation.

Serious investigation into complaints filed by media professionals regarding assaults and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Abstaining from arresting and imprisoning media professionals against the background of their journalistic work and merely filing civil complaints in case of harm to reputation was also one important recommendation.

Palestine press freedom index reflects an overall bad critical result in the areas measured during 2018. The index scored 484 points out of the total points 1000. This is a problematic result (orange) of a press freedom index.

This took place in the conference held by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) on Wednesday, February 13, in Ramallah, where, the findings of Palestine press freedom index, the first to be issued locally, as well as the annual report of media freedoms violations in Palestine during the past year, were presented.

The conference was opened and moderated by the Director General of MADA, Mr. Mousa Rimawi, MADA speech was delivered by Dr. Ghazi Hanania, the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Other speeches were also delivered in the conference by Mr. Joris Heerren, the Head of Governance Section and Civil Society at the European Union Office in Jerusalem; Dr. Ammar Dwaik, Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights; Mr. Mahmoud Al-Ifrangy, the Coordinator of Human Rights Organizations Council, Mr. Ashraf Abu Aram, the representative of Palestinian Network of Non -Governmental Organization’s (PNGO).

The conference was attended by the mass media, journalists, representatives of many local institutions and diplomatic representative offices in Ramallah and consulates in Jerusalem.

The working team leader, who prepared the index, Mr. Majid Al-Arouri pointed out that there are no fundamental differences in the press freedom index between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as both are classified in the same category which is problematic. The index in the West Bank scored 492 points, while in Gaza Strip 475 points.

Al-Arouri stated that Palestine press freedom index is based on eight areas, and 72 indicators. The findings of the areas were ranging between problematic and good. The area of legal safeguards scored 406 points, while the area of financing policies scored 457 points, and these are the least scores of areas. However, the self-regulation area scored 588 points, and the area of independence of media scored 565 points, and these are the highest scores of areas. It should be noted that the remaining areas fall in between.

Al-Arouri stressed that the index reveals that summoning and detaining female and male Palestinian journalists, the absence of a legal system that prosecutes the officials inciting against the media, as well as the subjugation of journalists and their possessions to attacks and assaults by the local security forces, and the harmonization of local legislation with the international conventions signed by Palestine, are still the worse indicators as each of them received zero points. However, the constitutional guarantees, and the absence of financial fines and compensations due to prosecuting journalists are the best indicators as they received 1000 points.

According to the index, one of the indicators harming freedom of the press is that only few journalists file complaints for the violations committed against them, and only few of such complaints are investigated, not to mention that victimized journalists are not compensated for the damages caused to them and no punitive measures are taken against the attackers.

According to the index, self-censorship severelyrestrict freedom of the press. The indicator (imposing editorial censorship on the issues circulated by the media) received 49 points, 56 points in the West Bank, compared to 38 points in Gaza Strip. This constitutes great risk on freedom of the press more than governmental censorship.

Moreover, the index showed that the area of transparency and access to information hassevere negative influence on it due to the absence of a law on the access to information. The indicator (there is a law that provides for the right to access to information) received the least points, zero. Whereas the indicator (there are practical mechanisms that ensure the access to information) received 13 points, zero points in the West Bank, compared to 31 in Gaza Strip.

In the opening, Mr. Rimawi welcomed the journalists, media agencies, and radios as the conference coincided with the International Day of Radios. He stressed the importance of the index to MADA framework of work to promote the freedom of expression, under the welcomed support of the European Union. He further emphasized that the index is preparing for a new stage. It is now possible to measure media freedoms in Palestine on a scientific basis, and it is also possible that all parties concerned can benefit from the findings, which can be adopted to develop programs and derive policies that ultimately serve the development of media and promotion of freedom of expression.

Dr. Hanania stated that during the past years, MADA Center has carried out many significant projects, studies and programs and made great efforts to promote freedom of the press and expression in Palestine. In this context, one of the most important studies in this field, is launched on this day, namely Palestine Press Freedom Index, the first index at the national level to be developed.

Hanania pointed out that the conditions of press freedoms are still subject to attacks, especially by the Israeli occupation, as part of a systematic policy aimed at silencing the Palestinian press.

For his part, the European Union Representative, Mr. Joris Heeren, expressed his pleasure to participate in “MADA” conference to launch Palestine Press Freedom Index and the Annual Report. He explained that freedom of expression and press must be protected and not restrained. He stressed the EU’s commitment to promote freedom of opinion and expression in Palestine and its efforts in all media freedoms areas.

He stressed that the EU appreciates the role of journalists and media professionals in transmitting the truth and exercising their right to practice media work despite the difficult circumstances that may surround them. He also pointed outto the importance of the law of the right of access to information and the necessity of its enactment by governments for his role in the fight against corruption.

Dr. Ammar Dwaik, Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, spoke about the importance of launching this index by MADA Center given “its role in measuring freedom of the press which comes within the total human rights in Palestine, and to show the state of progress or decline in media freedoms based on facts and figures studied under a specific approach”. He also pointed out that the ICHR had participated in the Advisory Committee for the preparation of the index given its significance, with the internal split which affects the monitoring of the human rights condition due to the multiplicity of parties committing violations.

Mr. Mahmoud Al-Ifrangy, coordinator of the Human Rights Organization Council, pointed to the importance of issuing the Press Freedom Index. He discussed the essence of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press and its importance in shaping opinion and belief. He emphasized that the journalist is a human being entitled to all rights, and that the press as an approach that is debatable rather than obscured or denied.

Al-Ifrangy stressed the need to provide further protection for journalists given the nature of their work and their presence in areas of conflict. He called for working towards drafting a new additional protocol for the protection of journalists during wars and conflicts.

For his part, Ashraf Abu Aram, representative of PNGO pointed to the need to present scientific facts and figures on the status of public freedoms in Palestine, including media freedoms, in view of the daily violations of freedom of the press and freedom of opinion and expression. He also stressed that this index presents an in-depth study for the first time of freedom of the press.
He stressed that the violations against journalists in Palestine are a reflection of suppression of freedoms all around the world. He also stressed the Network’s call for international partners and the European Union to continue supporting freedom of opinion, expression and press, and to condemn violations against them. He considered press freedom index the basis and first step towards a broad international pressure campaign to demand protection for journalists to enable them to meet their role, especially in conflict zones.

Ghazi Bani Odeh, the Head of Monitoring and Documentation Unit At MADA, has presented some parts of MADA annual report on media freedoms violations in Palestine during 2018, pointing out that last year a rise of 10% was witnessed compared to the previous year, clarifying that 2018 witnessed a total of 584 attacks, 78% of which were committed by the Israeli occupation, while 22% by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He explained that this increase resulted from a significant rise in the number of Israeli attacks, by 21% compared to the previous year, noting that the Palestinian violations recorded a decline in 2018 by 16%.

The total number of Israeli attacks amounted to 455, while the total number of Palestinian attacks amounted to 129 in 2018. According to MADA report, the physical assaults, considered the most serious type of attacks, constituted 53% of the total Israeli attacks.