Agreement between journalists' union and state-owned media in Palestine to guarantee basic rights for journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) hailed today [7 October 2013] an agreement reached by its affiliate in Palestine, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, and employers as a momentous breakthrough for its journalists.

The agreement was signed last 5 October at an official ceremony in Ramallah by representatives of three major media -- the state-owned broadcaster the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, the national news agency WAFA and the daily newspaper Alhayat Aljadeeda -- and officially witnessed by IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

"It took many months of hard work by the leaders of our affiliate in Palestine to achieve such a historical milestone for their members", said Boumelha. "The PJS can now set out to negotiate with employers the first collective trade union agreement for journalists in the region.

The IFJ congratulates them for this major achievement which will benefit journalists, secure their future and enhance the profession."

The three employers from the major state-owned media in Palestine committed themselves to start a national social dialogue with journalists' representatives on all aspects of social and professional working conditions of journalists and achieve by 1 January collective agreements based on recognised core international labour standards.

The declaration of intent set out the principles that will guide such negotiations, in particular:

• Recognition of public service journalism conducted in the public interest;

• Commitment to protect and advance editorial independence as the cornerstone of public service media;

• Setting quality media as a central objective guided by the core ideals of the mission of journalism and the highest standards of professional ethics.

In order to guarantee basic journalists' rights, the agreement acknowledges at its starting point (i) recognition of the right to Freedom of Association including the right of journalists to join and establish trade unions in these media houses, (ii) a commitment to issue secure employment contracts for journalists and (iii) the right to work in decent conditions that guarantee professional standards and editorial independence.

The agreement was signed by Riyadh El Hassan, Chair of the PBC and WAFA board, Yahia Yakhlef Editor-in-Chief of Alhayat Aljadeeda Newspapers and Abdelnasser Najjar, PJS President and member of the IFJ Executive Committee.

The IFJ President subsequently paid courtesy visits to Palestine's Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss how to consolidate the implications of this agreement and the actions to be played by the Palestinian Authority to carry out the necessary media and labour reforms in order to transform the current legal environment such as the urgent need to decriminalise press offenses, overhaul the press laws to guarantee the right to information and to protect sources.

"The next stage in these negotiations will be a big challenge for the PJS and needs to be embedded in the spirit of talks offered by the state-owned media employers underpinned by the promise of the authorities to clear problems and reform the legal framework. The IFJ will help by monitoring the talks and by building the capacity of the PJS to be able to negotiate the first collective agreement in its history," added Boumelha.

"It is a positive sign that these employers have agreed to enter intensive talks with the syndicate with the view to alleviate the yawning gaps that exist in the working conditions of journalists," said Abdelnasser Najjar, PJS President. "It is time that journalists, who are the true creative force behind the success of these medias, are recognised for their hard work, talent and commitment."