The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA” issued the results of the third annual Index of press freedom in Palestine, which covers the past year 2020, and monitors a set of indicators that measure the progress and decline in the level of press freedom in The West Bank and Gaza Strip, compared to the results of these indicators in the previous two years (2018 and 2019).This report is part of a European Union funded project entitled “A Step Forward towards enhancing Freedom of Expression in Palestine”.
MADA Center used the same methodology based on a year-to-year comparison based on a set of relevant international indicators used by Press House and Reporters without Borders, and the media development indicators of the UNESCO. In addition to what was approved by a group of experts and specialists during consultations conducted for this purpose.
The measurement methodology is based on a set of axes that include legal guarantees of press freedom, legal and societal restrictions on press freedom, independence of media work, diversity of content, self-censorship and government procedures, financing policies, transparency and access to information, and self-regulation of journalists and their protection.
The report sample included 370 journalists (238 from the West Bank and 132 from the Gaza Strip) in addition to 46 media institutions (35 from the West Bank and 11 from Gaza) and 8 human rights organizations (5 from the West Bank and 3 from Gaza).
The results of the 2020 index report showed a limited improvement, as the index reached 494 points in the overall areas measured, compared to 460 points during the year 2019 – an increase of 34 points over the year 2019 – and 7 points over the year 2018, Noting that the total number of measurement points is 1000 points.
Despite this improvement, the index’s classification remained in the three reports (2018, 2019, 2020), within the “orange / sensitive” category and did not exceed the middle barrier and remained below the average classification, or the medium category.
The largest change in the index was recorded during the past year 2020 in the West Bank (63 points) compared to the Gaza Strip (9 points), which pushed the overall index to improve by 7.4% compared to 2019.
The press freedom measure was based on 8 fields that include 72 indicators. The results of the fields were between “hard and good”, as 4 areas of them achieved scores more than 50% and less than 56% of the index value.
The field “Media Independence” received the largest number of points (552 points out of 1000), up by 82 points over the year 2019, followed by the field “Self-censorship and government procedures” which got 546 points, an increase of 45 points compared to 2019. While the field of “Self-Regulation and Protection of Journalists” got 529 points (down from 52 points in 2019), and the field of “Financing Policies” got 516 points, up by 83 points over the year 2019.
The other four fields scored rates ranging between 41.3% and 48.5% of the index value, where the field of “legal and societal restrictions on press freedom” got 485 points, an increase of 6 points compared to the year 2019, and the field of “transparency and access to information” got 454 points, down by 36 points, and the field “Media and Diversity of Contents” scored 446 points, down by 8 points, and the field “Legal Guarantees of Press Freedom” scored 413 points, an increase of 59 points compared to 2019.
MADA Center believes, according to the indicators of the press freedom index, that government policies are still lacking real measures that would enhance press freedom in Palestine. Despite the decrease in the number of cases, the arrests and summoning of journalists continued, while there has been no harmonization of legislation with international conventions on human rights, and no change has occurred regarding the right to access information law, judicial protection for press freedom is still weak and passive, and self-censorship continues to severely limit freedom of the press.
Based on the foregoing, MADA Center reaffirms the necessity of adopting the Right to Information Law, providing the necessary mechanisms for its implementation, and harmonizing legislation with international standards related to freedom of expression, the abolition of any legal legislation that enables the closure of media institutions or websites without a court ruling, the adoption of legislation guaranteeing freedom of the press, in accordance with the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law.
The Center also stresses the importance of involving journalists and civil society organizations in any official discussion about amending laws related to freedom of the press or issuing new laws related to that, the need for the security services in the West Bank and Gaza to stop summoning and arresting journalists on the grounds of their journalistic work, the formation of an independent supreme council for the media, a review of the government’s financial policies towards the media, especially with regard to the fees and taxes, and immediate assistance to media institutions that are threatened with closure and heavy losses due the spread of the Corona epidemic.