May 5, 2020

London - While the 3rd of May of every year is marked by The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the World Press Freedom Day, 12 Palestinian journalists are, until this moment, being held behind the Israeli prison. Along with hundreds of Palestinian media institutions that are handcuffed by the rules that the Israeli policy imposed on them and their freedom of opinion.

On this day, the UN calls the world to celebrate the fundamental principles of freedom of the press and to defend the media from any attacks on their independence. Nevertheless, and after 27 years since the declaration of this day, the Palestinian institutions and journalists are still subject to constant attacks by the Israeli occupation that targeted the Palestinian press since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. The Palestinian press institution along with its crew is largely controlled by repressive parties that extremely influence the press performance in reporting and transferring the accurate message with complete freedom, here, the Israeli occupation is found to be the main obstacle that hinders and undermines the institutions’ freedom of expression. This undermining is not limited to controlling the political side, but it controls the culture, knowledge, economy, law, media, ideology, and all areas that can be covered within the Palestinian press institutions.

Since the beginning of the occupation, Israel’s policy seeks to employ all its media institutions to achieve its goal of the Zionist entity, spreading their belief that the land of Palestine is Jewish and is an extension of ancient Israel. However, and to prevent any external interference from showing the opposite of this, Israel made sure to carry out a widespread violation against the Palestinian media sector where Palestinian press institutions and journalists became Israel policy’s first targeted group party. This violation includes preventing the essential press equipment from entering the West Bank nor Gaza Strip, preventing the institutions from practicing their work freely by forcibly closing down, burning or destroying their channels and centers, targeting journalists them with death, injury, burns, or beating, deliberately disturbing their work by preventing them from documenting the occupation crimes practiced against Palestinian civilians or destroying their press equipment, and violating the press freedom of journalists by limiting their movements and communication with the outside world. All of this and many others have led to the decline within the performance of the Palestinian media.

Disregarding article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that assures the right to freedom of opinion and expression without harassment, the Israeli courts tend to obliterate the Palestinian press institution’s work for a prolonged period of time by what they justify as “administrative detention”. Under the category of the “secret file”, this method of judicial oppression is a detention without trial or accusations, in which Israel effectively exploits its claims that the journalist belongs to a terrorist press institution and is a threat to the security of Israel to get him away from the scene and to freely close the anti-Israel TV channels and press institutions. The journalist Bushra Al-Taweel, is among those prisoners who were subjected to administrative detention more than once and remains in detention until today. Along with the journalist Mays Abu Ghosh who was detained in 2019 and was subjected to severe illegal methods of torture while in investigation besides being denied access to a lawyer during the investigation period.

Therefore, while the Palestinian press institutions, whom being seen by the people as their soldiers towards liberty and freedom, are prevented from practicing their duties in mirroring the suffering of the Palestinians and revealing the illegal acts practiced by the Israeli Occupation, this puts the role of the current Palestinian Journalists Syndicate under legal accountability. Additionally, this would bring the journalist and the civilian to question the identity of the party that should stand as a guardian and a defender of the Palestinian press, journalists, and principles of freedom of opinion and expression. Likewise, this would bring the people, press institutions and the affected journalists on-call or in prison, to question the procrastination about conducting an immediate, fair, and impartial elections for a new Journalists Syndicate that can stand for their rights in front of the international courts calling for the rule of law to be practiced against perpetrators of crimes and calling for the application of UN Resolution 2222 against any occupying power.

In spite of the continued Israeli violation of the rule of law in terms of undermining the Palestinian press institution’s freedom of expression, those institutions play and shall exceed their role in confronting this kind of violation. Such confrontation could be seen through highlighting the need to conduct meetings and seminars that reveal Israeli practices against the media and journalists, urging the need of cooperation and joint work between Palestinian media institutions to limit the negative effects resulting from the continuation of the blockade, and finally the need for Palestinian press, humanitarian and human rights institutions to turn to international forums to pressure Israel to end their blockade of the Gaza Strip in general and the media in particular.