On 7 September, the leadership of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) met the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, to discuss the government's commitment to strengthening press freedom, the safety of journalists and addressing the media sector reform. PJS President Naser Abu Baker and PJS' press freedom committee head Mohammad Lahham attended the meeting.
Mr. Shtayyeh said his government will take immediate steps to pass the long-awaited Right to Information (RtI) law. The PJS, the Palestinian media and local and international press freedom groups have been campaigning for almost two decades in favour of this law.
He also renewed his commitment to strengthening press freedom in Palestine and putting an end to previous practices of detaining journalists for doing their work, establishing a National Safety Mechanism to investigate attacks on journalists and fight the impunity of crimes against media workers. The government also committed to a financial contribution to creating a national media safety training centre.
Abu Baker said after his meeting: “It was a productive meeting and reflects the government commitment to work with the union. We want to create an appropriate legal and regulatory environment for the media sector in line with international standards.”
In August 2016, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was the first Arab leader to sign the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World, which has been signed by six countries so far. The declaration includes 16 principles which considered fundamental to guaranteeing and protecting press freedom and independent journalism in the region.
In 2017, the PJS and the IFJ, in consultation with the government and the Palestinian media, issued a policy paper on media reform, urging the government to introduce legislation to free the media sector. In addition to the RTI law, the paper demanded reform of the current press and publication law, to implement the public service broadcast law, establish an independent regulator for the audio-visual sector and the creation of a national press council and introduce a law on privacy and protection of sources.
The IFJ welcomed PM Shtayyeh's commitment but warned that three years after the president’s signature of the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World and repeated promises since then, no media law has been passed by the government.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “The time for the Palestinian government to deliver on all its commitments on press freedom and independent journalism has come. We urge the PM Shtayyed to make media sector reform a priority for his government and to lay the foundations for what the Palestinian journalists have been fighting for over two decades-free and independent journalism."