Palestine: IFJ welcomes “long-awaited breakthrough” following adoption of media reform policy

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Key media stakeholders in Palestine including the government, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation (PBC) in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have adopted a wide-ranging policy paper on media reform. The paper, Media Reform in Palestine – described by IFJ affiliate the PJS as a “long-awaited breakthrough” - was presented on 15 February during a meeting in Ramallah with over a hundred participants representing the media sector, state institutions, universities, senior journalists, official representatives and local and international media development organizations. The policy paper has been negotiated between key stakeholders following the Palestinian government’s signing of the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World last summer. It sets out plans to introduce new media laws and reform existing laws and bodies such as the Right to Information law, the Media Regulations Council, the ethics and self-regulation councils and public service media. In addition, the paper emphasises the importance of raising professional standards in journalism through relevant and high quality journalism training and to invest in the media infrastructure. “We are committed to bring Palestinian media laws up to international standards and in conformity with international conventions and treaties”, said His Excellency Ali Abu Diak, Minister of Justice and the Head of the Cabinet Legislation Committee, representing the Palestinian Prime Minister. “We are committed to serving the Palestinian people by providing them with diverse views on our airwaves and screens and to have the PBC as a platform for open and transparent debate and to do that we are looking forward for the cooperation and support from all our partners,” said Ahmed Assaf, PBC General Supervisor. “Our mandate and aim are to make sure that the Palestinian people’s rights are respected, including press freedom and freedom of expression,” said Amar Dwaik, Executive director of ICHR. “We are delighted with our partnership with the PJS to lead on preparing draft media related laws that are in conformity with international standards and Palestinian commitments through its signature of relevant international convention and treaties.” “This has been a long-awaited breakthrough but we also understand that there is much to do in the coming weeks and months,” said Nasser Abu Baker, PJS President and the lead negotiator of the Policy Paper. “It is our responsibility to do everything we can in order to guarantee the success of this process.” On 16 February, Abu Diak confirmed to the IFJ/PJS delegation that the government fully committed to press freedom and the development of the media sector and that it had been integrated in the National Development Plan 2017-2022. “It has been a remarkable few days for the Palestinian media,” said Monir Zaarour, IFJ Director of Policy and Programmes in the Arab World and the Middle East. “The IFJ will do all it can to provide our Palestinian colleagues with the right expertise and sound advice. We also urge the international and media development organisations to get together to make sure that this historic opportunity is not wasted.”

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