The Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Right to Peaceful Assembly (1 August 2008 – 31 October 2009)
The Democratic Development Unit (DDU) at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) tracks civil and political rights as a part of PCHR’s overall mission concerning the status of Palestinian civilians’ rights in general. To that end, the DDU develops indicators to measure the democratization of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). DDU believes these indicators are vital in all efforts to determine requirements relating to unification and efforts aimed at building a democratic society. These indicators will assist in creating a future where all civilians enjoy their rights stipulated in international instruments. They will also enable the separation of powers, the rule of law and political participation.
The right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly are not only part of the human rights system they also form two basic pillars of democracy. Without these two rights, democracy cannot be achieved. Accordingly, PCHR exerts a lot of effort to protect and to ensure civilians’ enjoyment of these two rights. In this regard, PCHR’s DDU has issued periodic reports documenting violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly in PNA ruled territories. As part of this work, PCHR presents this report which is the eighth of a series of reports on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly. It covers the period from 1 August 2008 through 31 October 2009.
The reporting period has been defined by the ongoing political fragmentation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which began following Hamas’ military takeover of Gaza in June 2007. Hamas’ takeover was the culmination internal fighting between the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). The government that was formed in the West Bank by President Mahmoud ‘Abbas and presided over by Dr. Salam Faiad has continued to run the affairs of the West Bank and has full control of the security in that area. The dismissed government in Gaza presided over by Prime Minister Isma’il Haneya has exercised exclusive control in the Gaza Strip.
The security chaos that had prevailed in the oPt during the fighting has retreated and now there is exclusive control by the security services in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively. However, respect for the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly under PNA rule has not improved. In fact, they have fallen victim to the political fragmentation. Further, the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly have been sacrificed due to the Israeli occupation and its grave violations of human rights during the al-Aqsa Intifada, in general, and the last offensive on the Gaza strip in particular.
This report includes three main parts as follows:
Part I: addresses international standards and instruments that ensure and regulate the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
 During the al-Aqsa Intifada, PCHR documented violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) against journalists and media personnel operating in the OPT. PCHR
published 12 reports titled “Silencing the Press” covering the period from 28
September 2000 through 31 August 2009. These reports address IOF violations of
journalists’ right to freedom of opinion and expression. To review the
‘Silencing the Press’ reports, please visit PCHR’s website at www.pchrgaza.org.
 From 27 December 2008 through 18 January 2009, IOF launched an open war on the Gaza Strip, codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. During this war, IOF committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
Victims included journalists who were on duty at the time of attack against them. For more information on IOF war on Gaza, please see PCHR’s report ‘Targeted Civilians’.