On Tuesday, 06 February 2018, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) concluded the activities of “Promoting Media Freedoms” project carried out by PCHR and funded by the Canadian Government in the period between September 2017 and March 2018. PCHR held the closing ceremony in Lighthouse Restaurant on Gaza Beach and attended by Douglas Scott Proudfoot, Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Ian Anderson, Head of Political Section at the Representative Office, representatives of civil society organizations, journalists, social media activists and lawyers.
Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, opened the closing ceremony. He talked about the importance of the freedom of opinion and expression as a cornerstone of democracy and the civil society’s efforts to enhance it. Sourani also praised the Canadian Government’s efforts in supporting the Palestinian civil society, emphasizing on its vital role in the region. Sourani briefly mentioned the project’s activities and emphasized that PCHR’s efforts will continue in the vein, considering the freedom of expression as one of its core interests and giving it a particular attention.
Mr. Proudfoot delivered a speech during the ceremony, expressing his country’s pride to support the Palestinian society motivated by its belief in the two-state solution in the region. Mr. Proudfoot emphasized that freedom of expression shall be a cornerstone of a democratic Palestinian state in the future, praising the Palestinian civil society’s role in this context. He also pointed out to the seriousness of the violations of freedom of opinion and expression, emphasizing his follow-up of the Palestinian civil society’s efforts to abolish the Cybercrimes Law.
A short video was then screened on the project’s results that included monitoring and documenting violations of the freedom of expression during the project’s period; raising journalists and human rights activists’ awareness of the right to freedom of expression and its boundaries; issuing a review of the Cybercrimes Law; and holding 2 panel discussions relevant to the freedom of expression. The project also included a campaign calling for the abolishment of 2017 Cybercrimes Law; as part of which 6 short videos, including one in English, were published criticizing some articles in the law.
PCHR also released hashtag #President_Abolish it, #إلغيه_يا ريس, to warn the society of the seriousness of the Cybercrimes Law and importance of abolishing it. The project directly contributed to giving notes on the Cybercrimes Law to the Palestinian Cabinet, which promised to amend it, within the framework of the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council. Finally, PCHR organized 4 radio episodes addressing issues related to the freedom of expression and freedom of press, including freedom of expression on the social media.
The project’s fellows, who are 7 graduates of both genders selected to voluntarily help in organizing the project’s activities, delivered a speech during the ceremony. They talked about their experience throughout the project and how it contributed to honing their skills, enhancing their expertise in advocacy and campaigning, and raising their awareness of the rights relevant to freedom of press. On behalf of the fellows, Ansam al-Qatta’a delivered the speech, expressing her happiness with this experience with PCHR. At the end of her speech, she thanked PCHR on behalf of her and her colleagues in the project.
At the beginning of the ceremony, a bulletin namely “Speak Freely” issued on the project was distributed. The bulletin includes an editorial written by Lawyer Raji Soruani; a review of the project’s activities; 2 articles on the press freedoms and 2 opinion pieces addressing the dialectical issues of freedom of expression in addition to 2 position papers on the Cybercrimes Law and freedom of press freedoms after the Palestinian reconciliation.