The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA” organized a digital panel discussion on self-censorship in the media and its impact on media freedoms in Palestine through ZOOM program. Representatives of various media outlets and CSOs and a group of male and female journalists participated in it. It should be mentioned that this discussion is part of “A Step Forward towards Promoting Freedom of Expression in Palestine” funded by the European Union.
Participants in the meeting stressed the need to work to provide a legal environment that protects journalists from prosecutions in connection with their professional work, and to ensure professionalism in media work, to intensify training courses and capacity building for journalists and media personnel, especially new graduates on real, professional and objective media work, and to include the topic of censorship in the media education courses in universities, in addition to the need for the Palestinian journalists to be bold and courageous in their work.
Mousa Rimawi, Director General of “MADA” Center, said that self-censorship is the most dangerous form of censorship, explaining that its roots go back to the years of the occupation that preceded the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, when direct censorship was severe during carrying out the press work.
Additionally, Rimawi emphasized that the self-censorship in Palestine is very high, as previous studies and surveys conducted by the center showed that about 80% of Palestinian journalists exercise self-censorship on their work, the reasons for which are the prosecution of the occupation and the security services in addition to social reasons.
Rimawi also pointed out that self-censorship has severe negative effects on freedom of opinion and expression and the development of the media in Palestine, and this censorship increased after the division in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, due to the impact of harsh prosecution campaigns against journalists and the media, it also increased in light of the state of emergency, which it was announced in the Palestinian territories following the spread of the Corona virus.
Sharif Haj Ali, a project coordinator at “MADA” Center, touched on the concept and definition of self-censorship, its causes and divisions, and stressed that self-censorship negatively affects freedom of expression and the professional level of the Palestinian press, noting that societal censorship also promotes self-censorship. Haj Ali also referred to the bodies that exercise censorship on the journalistic and media work in Palestine represented by the Israeli occupation, the ruling authorities, the management of press and media institutions (editorial oversight), self-censorship from journalist on what he /she publishes, community censorship, in addition to financial control that is represented by advertisers and funders.