The Conference of “Freedom of Expression concerns everyone”, organized by the Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms in Ramallah, Thursday, has recommended the need the work on developing and updating the Palestinian laws on media and on passing the right to information decree law. It further promoted professionalism at journalist work as one of the most significant pillars and means of media freedoms protection.
The Conference was attended by crowds of media professionals, representatives of media outlets and media students, not to mention the Palestinian Government Spokesman Ibrahim Melhem, the Chairman of MADA Dr. Ghazi Haninia, and the Director General of MADA Mousa Rimawi.
The sessions of the conference, which coincided with the International Day of the Right to Information corresponding to 28th September, were divided into two sessions moderated by Dr. Taleb and Samia Wazwaz. Both sessions have addressed the reality of media freedoms and legislation as well as the role of judiciary in promoting the freedom of expression.
The working papers presented during these sessions were: the Reality of Freedom of the Media and Access to Information, Independent Media and Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Expression and Investigative Journalism, Hate Speech and Freedom of Expression, Harmonization of Media Legislation, the Importance of Freedom of Expression to Fight against Corruption, Judicial Reform and its Impact on Freedom of Expression.
Rimawi emphasized that “the freedom of expression is a matter that concerns everyone, and a human right everyone has to enjoy”. He also addressed the significant development witnessed by Palestine in the field of media freedoms ever since the new government was established. “This is a good indicator we hope shall continue and develop in adjusting and passing the legislation” he added.
Furthermore, he pointed to the establishment of the “Anti – Hate Speech Network in the Middle East and North Africa” announced few days ago in Geneva and in cooperation with a number of Arab non-governmental organizations.
Hanania stated that MADA, over more than 12 years, has dedicated its efforts and activities to defend the freedom of press and expression to promote the legal environment contributing to the development, multilateralism, and independence of media, as well as promoting the freedom of opinion and expression referring to the Press Freedom Index which allows to scientifically measure the status of media freedoms in Palestine.
Not to mention that it enables the concerned authorities to derive policies that shall serve the promotion of the role of media and freedom of press and expression in Palestine. He also prepared the right to access information draft bill and strengthened this right widely. He further effectively contributed in the discussion on other draft bills on media.
He praised the existing government and its concern towards media freedoms. This has clearly reflected on the ground as “the number of documented violations against media freedoms in the West Bank during the past months which coincided with the establishing of the existing government, a noticeable decline, which is almost complete in some months”.
“We are so proud of the achievements realized by MADA, despite the difficult political, and economic situations related to the Occupation and its ongoing, aggravating and threatening violations against media freedoms. As these violations, since 2000, have led to the death of 43 female and male journalists, not to mention the injuries and arrests of hundreds of other journalists”.
The Government Spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Melhem, has reaffirmed the eagerness of the Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Ishtaya to launch the press freedom indexes with their high ceilings indicating that the Prime Minister will personally follow up with these indexes.
“Since the first day of assuming its constitutional functions, public freedoms and press freedom, in particular, have always been significantly important and prioritized by the 18th Government considering them the best tool to measure its achievements and success of the level of services it provides to the people” Melhem added.
“In line with these orientations in which statements were closely associated with deeds, the government’s record regarding press freedoms during the first months of assuming its duties is completely clear, according to reports issued by MADA Center, which the Prime Minister was honored to receive during his meeting with members of the board of directors of MADA by Dr. Ghazi Hanania” he added.
He also stated that the slogan of this conference “Freedom of Expressions concerns everyone” is basically a slogan that does not only imply the concerns about the freedom of opinion and expression, but also promises hope and expects efforts so that the legislation and laws may be passed and approved and to create a legal environment that safeguards freedoms and is compatible with the professional needs of the free press which is powerful and owns its empowered tools based on professional standards”.