Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas became the first Arab leader to sign the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World at a meeting in Ramallah with officials from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS).
He joins the representatives of more than 500 Palestinian media, human rights and civil society organisations, ministers and political parties who also signed the declaration during a ceremony organised by the IFJ and PJS.
The IFJ warmly welcomed the President's and prime minister's commitment to work with the PJS and civil society organisations to extend media freedom and the rights of journalists. In November last year President Abbas had made a commitment Palestine would be the first state to sign the declaration.
IFJ affiliates in Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan and Kuwait also expect the declaration to be signed by leading media and human rights actors in each country in the coming months and have backed calls by the IFJ for all Arab governments to commit to work to promote greater media freedom.
The Declaration - a clear commitment to the principles of media freedom, independent journalism and the right to information - was adopted at a meeting hosted by the International Federation of Journalists and the Moroccan journalists union (SNPM) in Casablanca in May 2016 and supported by numerous institutions including UNESCO, the government of Norway, the FES, Union to Union and EU-funded MedMedia programme.
It is the first step to establishing a Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the region to uphold the principles contained in the Declaration.
Supported by hundreds of representatives of journalists unions, broadcasters, human rights organisations and press freedom groups it sets out 16 key principles to achieve the highest international standards of media freedom and protect and enhance journalists’ rights.
Among the principles in the Declaration are those covering:
Freedom of expression
Freedom of information
Media law reform
Hate speech and intolerance
Independence of public service broadcasters
The President signed the declaration at A meeting in Ramallah with IFJ officials and the Chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate Nasser Abu Bakker. The declaration was also supported by prime minister Rami Hamdallah. The PJS thanked him for his support and welcomed his commitment to present the declaration to the cabinet and work with the union in the future to implement the provisions set out in the agreement.
Mr Abu Bakker said: "We hope this important commitment to the principles of media freedom is the dawn of a new era of cooperation between journalists, government and human rights organisations to bring long-awaited media reform in Palestine which will ensure the highest international standards of independent journalism, professionalism and rights for all."
IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear, who attended the signing, said: "We are delighted that President Abbas has become the first leader to sign and for his commitment to extend the principles of media freedom and journalists’ rights across the region. Hundreds of representatives of civil society and the PJS have come together to create an incredible momentum for media reform, independent journalism and media workers rights. Their campaign and today's events are an inspiration for the whole region. What we need to see now is speedy action to begin to implement the mechanisms set out in the declaration to extend media freedom and professionalism".
The declaration - the culmination of a 20-month process of consultation with technical experts and media stakeholders - called on all journalists unions, press freedom organisations, editors, media, human rights and civil society groups to back the declaration. It also called on all governments and inter-governmental organisations in the region to sign up to the Declaration and commit to practical methods to establish and enforce an independent mechanism for media freedom.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries