Thursday, July 28, 2011

News censorship in Palestine

Human Rights Watch published their report ‘No News is Good News’ on 6th April 2011.

They report that the Palestinian Authority has been arbitrarily detaining scores of West Bank journalists since 2009, often severely abusing them in the process.

According to some journalists, this has produced the intended ‘chilling effect’ on free expression and led to an increase in self-censorship.

Human Right Watch have strongly condemned these actions by the PA.

Hamas have also abused countless journalists in Gaza though the report focuses on the West Bank media specifically.

The PA has only once been held accountable for arbitrary detention/ abuse of detainees, and even then was acquitted of torturing a man to death.

Shockingly, despite this, the US and Europe make significant contributions to the PA’s budget; the majority being used to fund the security services. The US and UK are also responsible for directly funding the Preventive Security agency and GIS, who are responsible for most torture.

Following this report, on March 7th, Human Rights Watch called for Hamas to lift their restrictions on books and newspapers.

Hamas officials regularly confiscate novels from bookshops which they believe contain ‘immoral content’.

All newspaper which support the rival Fatah movement are banned in the Gaza strip (Al-Ayyam, Al-Quads and Al-Hayat al-Jadida); likewise, all newspapers supporting Hamas are banned in the West Bank (Al-Risala and As’ada).

Whilst not all papers are banned all the time, at least one is restricted most of the time. Human Rights Watch encourages both sides to permenantly lift all restrictions and permit the newspaper bureaus to operate unhindered.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers."

It is time that authorities, both in the Gaza strip and the West Bank start to abide by this.

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