In celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, the Office of the European Union Representative, UNESCO, and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate joined Palestinian media practitioners to highlight the role of the state, civil society, and press actors in ensuring freedom and quality of journalism and public expression in the context of the global digital environment.
Under the UNESCO theme “Journalism under Digital Siege”, this year’s event underlined the multifaceted ways in which recent developments in surveillance by state and non-state actors, as well as big data collection and artificial intelligence, impact journalism, freedom of expression, and privacy.
In 2021, the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has monitored and documented 562 violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. 368 violations were committed by the Israeli authorities (equivalent to about 65%) while various Palestinian authorities committed a total of 123 violations in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, 69 violations were committed by social media companies.
Media freedom, independence, and pluralism are prerequisites to guarantee access to reliable information. The EU is determined through its digital diplomacy to support the promotion of a human-rights-based vision of digitalization that guarantees freedom of opinion and of expression, online and offline, as rights to be exercised by everyone, everywhere, at any time.
“Media freedom and safety of journalists online and offline are under increasing attacks, while the information sphere is flooding with disinformation, hate speech, and incitement in Palestine and around the globe. Last week, the EU has taken an important step in the Digital Services Act. The Act is a world first in the field of digital regulation. The Act follows the principle that what is illegal offline must also be illegal online. It aims to protect the digital space against the spread of illegal content, and to ensure the protection of users’ fundamental rights,” said the European Union Representative, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, at the ceremony. “Policies, dialogue with all stakeholders, and intensified measures are needed to defend and protect these fundamental freedoms, particularly in the digital arena. This is one of the building blocks for any responsible authority and crucial for the democratic future of an independent Palestinian State.”
“The unfortunate and stark global reality facing us all is that digital threats are impacting and undermining journalism, freedom of expression, journalist safety, and privacy. UNESCO believes that freedom of the press and freedom of expression allows for mutual understanding to build sustainable peace, and these values lie at the core of our mandate. We remain committed to supporting all involved stakeholders to achieve press freedom, including through our work to enhance journalist safety and media information literacy in Palestine,” said the Head of Office and UNESCO Representative to Palestine, Noha Bawazir