Palestinian journalists face a historic challenge to build unity in the face of war and occupation, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) General Secretary Aidan White told a mass meeting of reporters, writers and broadcasters in the West Bank town of Ramallah today.
“Media will not be able to play its key role in building conditions for peace and democracy if the house of journalism is divided,” he said. “We need a strong, unified and representative community of Palestinian journalists able to speak with one voice in defence of media rights and free expression for the Palestinian people.”
A delegation of IFJ leaders including Senior Vice-President Soren Wormslev and Executive Committee member Nikos Megrelis is visiting the region to discuss practical action in support of Palestinian journalists.
White pledged fresh support for Palestinian journalists from IFJ unions around the world and called on the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate to silence critics inside and outside the region by relaunching itself and its campaign for independent journalism and decent working conditions in media houses.
“We must tell politicians and political groups that the free voice of Palestinian journalism is vital to building a secure peace,” he said. Kidnappings of journalists by extremist groups as well as continued harassment by Israel had made it almost impossible for Palestinian journalists to do their work.
“Palestinian journalists must be able to roam freely across the region in search of their stories, they must be able to work without political pressure, they must be able to work in secure and safe conditions,” he said. “Above all, their voice must be heard through a credible and effective professional organisation. The unity and solidarity of Palestinian journalists is needed now more than ever.”
White said that critics complaining about the organisation of Palestinian journalists and their syndicate had to join the process of reform and rebuilding.
“It is not enough to criticise behind closed doors. It is time for an open, honest and defining debate about the future,” he said. “Palestinian journalists deserve better than that. We need action to create and reinforce a strong union. We need a democratic union. We need a union that is engaged in working nationally and internationally for change and for reform.”
White said that the IFJ would work with Palestinian journalists to create safer working conditions, to demand that Palestinian reporters are recognised by Israel and throughout the region and to ensure the authentic voice of Palestinian journalism is heard at international level.
“At a time when violence is increasing, when civil war threatens to engulf parts of the region and when journalists are more under pressure than they have been for years, it is time for all of us to work together to build a new and lasting solidarity,” he said. “If we succeed the winners will not be just journalists themselves, but all Palestinians. That is why we have to rise to this historic challenge.”
The IFJ is carrying out a range of new programmes with the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on safety issues and trade union development.
“These actions will help, but in the end it is the commitment and engagement of all Palestinian journalists that will decide how effective the syndicate will be in its work,” said White.
Click here to read this release in Arabic.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide