Gaza Journalists’ Group Must “Think Again” Over Call to Ban Reporting of Internal Crisis

The International Federation of Journalists today called on Gaza journalists to “think again” over attempts to stop Gaza Strip reporters from covering protests by militants and other shows of internal strife. The call has been made in an attempt to stave off violent attacks on reporters.

“The coverage of problems within the Palestinian movement is of critical importance to the Palestinian people and must not be censored,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “If there are problems of safety they should be dealt with without resorting to unilateral bans on what reporters can cover. Journalists’ leaders in Gaza must think again over this policy.”

White said the IFJ was asking the Gaza section of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, which has acted independently of Syndicate headquarters in Ramallah, to step back from its call for a ban on reporting statements that touch on internal events and a further demand that journalists provide positive coverage by publishing images that support "national unity and the protection of the internal front".

“It is regrettable that there is also a threat of penalties against journalists who violate this policy," said White. “Palestinians journalists have suffered for years for their profession and they deserve better treatment than this from their own leaders.”

The syndicate issued its call after an emergency meeting to discuss rising Palestinian unrest in Gaza, where earlier militants battled security forces in clashes that wounded 18 people including a Reuter’s journalist. Some Palestinians fear the unrest could lead to civil war.

“It is certainly true that journalists need to be protected,” said White. “But invitations to distort the news will not deliver more safety and security; it just confirms the belief among the enemies of press freedom that intimidation of journalists will indeed produce the silence and secrecy they crave.”

The IFJ sent a letter to journalists’ leaders in Gaza and Ramallah urging them to withdraw the new policy and called on all Palestinian groups to stop targeting journalists. “This is a critical moment for the Palestinian people,” said White. “What they need now is the truth and lots of it, not censorship and a culture of fear.”

The International News Safety Institute, the global campaign for safer conditions for journalists and media staff, and the IFJ are planning a new round of safety training for Palestinian journalists and there are plans to open a safety centre in the region. “This will be a practical programme of assistance to help journalists,” said White. “It is what journalists need urgently.”

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries
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