On Tuesday, 02 May 2017, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a campaign titled as “No to Silencing the Press in Palestine” on the World Press Freedom Day coinciding the third of May. The event, which was held in the Light House Restaurant’s hall in Gaza City, was attended by a large number of journalists, representatives of human rights and community-based organizations, politicians and the Government Information Office.
Hamdy Shaqoura, PCHR’s Deputy Director for Program Affairs, opened the event and considered it as a culmination of PCHR’s efforts throughout the year in documenting violations against journalists and providing them with the necessary legal protection. Shaqoura also pointed out that the cooperation with the various press bodies to organize this activity is a symbolic sign of PCHR’s solidarity with journalists and media workers against the violations committed against them at the Palestinian and Israeli levels.
Bilal Jadallah, Director of the Press House, pointed out to the importance of the World Press Freedom Day in Palestine, differing from anywhere else in the world. This importance stems from the violations and tragedies committed by Israeli forces against journalists in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), attempting to silence the press. Jadallah also addressed the impact of the internal division on the freedom of opinion and expression, stressing that as long as the division remains, violations against journalists and public freedoms continue to increase. During his intervention, Jadallah called for developing a national strategy and unified Palestinian speech by all to promote the Palestinian cause locally and internationally.
In her speech,’ Andalib ‘Odwan, Director of Community Media Center, said that intimidation imposed by authorities forced all, including journalists, to self-censor their opinions, ideas and writings. She confirmed that using kidnapping was the latest means of repression and intimidation adopted by those authorities. Furthermore, ‘Andalib called for intensifying efforts, working on facing the challenges and defending activists. She added that all relevant Palestinian laws should embed articles related to the right to information access.
‘Adel al-Za’noun, Director of al-Doha Media Center, explained in his speech the escalation of violations and crimes that journalists and media workers in the Palestinian Authority (PA) are exposed to and called for ending those. Al-Za’noun stressed that the status of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is getting worse day by day, particularly that the Israeli forces continue to practice these violations and ignore the public opinion. Al-Za’noun added that Israel is proud of the crimes committed during the latest offensive in Gaza, including targeting al-Aqsa TV.
Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, delivered a speech in which he expressed the importance of journalists’ role and its integration with the human rights work as they are considered as human rights defenders, who defend the truth and make it clear before the local and International public opinion. Sourani said that Israeli forces target journalists because they fear the truth that would lead to holding them accountable and provoke the International public opinion against them. On the other hand, Sourani mentioned that one of the worst manifestations of internal division is committing violations against journalists and assault on the public freedoms in the PA. Moreover, Sourani called upon the authorities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to respect and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and grant civilians more freedoms. He added that PCHR has organized this event for 13 years in appreciation and respect for the freedom of expression and in solidarity with journalists in their noble mission in addition to how the freedom of expression is an essential prelude for democracy.
After the opening session, Mohammed Abu Hashem, a legal researcher at PCHR, presented a concentrated review on the two periodic reports on the freedom of expression. The first one is Silencing the Press, which addresses the Israeli violations against journalists working in the oPt. The second one is the state of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the PA, which tackles the violations against the freedom of opinion and expression in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Both reports cover the period between 01 April 2016 and 31 March 2017.
The main activity in the campaign was to post using the hash tags launched by PCHR in both Arabic and English languages: #إخراس الصحافة and #SilencePress. Around 80 volunteers from both genders participated in posting on those hastags. Those activists belong to two groups of activists on social media; “Social Media Army” and “South Women Media Forum”. The two groups have worked for the last 2 weeks on preparing journalistic materials in both Arabic and English from PCHR’s both reports’ content as they designed cards and videos with journalists in addition to Info graphic cards that display statistics on violations. Furthermore, the bloggers continued posting using the abovementioned hash tags from at 11:00 to at 14:00. The #SilencePress hash tag was trending on Twitter as the reviewers reached 15 million who followed more than 4000 tweets. Moreover, more than 350 bloggers participated in posting. The blogging campaign on these hash tags continues until the Wednesday afternoon, 03 May 2017.