Palestinian Voices: Who is Silencing Them?Friday 05/05/2023

Palestinian Voices: Who is Silencing Them?

Every year on May 3rd we celebrate the World Press Freedom Day, as established by the UN General Assembly thirty years ago. On this day, we stress the importance of allowing individuals to communicate and access information freely. For press freedom to truly exist, information must be accessible to all, and journalists must be free from interference while exercising this freedom. On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, it is imperative that we conduct a rigorous evaluation of the degree to which press freedom is being upheld across the globe, and raise awareness about the severe restrictions that certain populations face as a result of authoritarian regimes governing them. 

Unfortunately, Palestinians, including Palestinian journalists, are often subjected to persecution and harassment by the Palestinian Authority (PA) when expressing ideas and sharing information that contradicts its interests. The PA does claim that it protects freedom of expression and press. Article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law establishes that “every person shall have the right to express his opinion and to circulate it orally, in writing or in any form.” However, other laws also enacted by the PA clearly limit the freedom of press and opinion, such as the Press and Publications Law. Furthermore, the situation on the ground has demonstrated that the PA has repeatedly taken measures to suppress freedom of press.

Throughout the years, Palestinians who have expressed opposing interests to those of the PA have been pressured, assaulted, arrested, and even killed by the PA forces. To illustrate the extent of the issue, it is worth noting that as recently as March 2023, two Palestinian journalists, Moath Washha and Wahaj Bani Mufleh, were apprehended by the Palestinian intelligence service. Mufleh was even subjected to torture and ill-treatment after he tried to help a foreign journalist that was arrested and mistreated by the Palestinian security forces. 

Moreover, the case of Nizar Banat cannot go unnoticed. Banat, a Palestinian activist and an outspoken critic of the PA was brutally beaten and detained by the Palestinian security forces. Tragically, he passed away en route to the hospital just one hour later. Thousands of people gathered to protest against the PA for Banat’s death, and even during these demonstrations, Palestinian security forces attacked the protesters and several journalists who attended the protest.

The international community has often turned a blind eye to the numerous human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority against Palestinians. On this important occasion of reflecting upon the significance of press freedom, it is critical to acknowledge that this is a fundamental right that is indispensable to democracy and must be safeguarded. It is our duty to ensure that those who violate this freedom, including the Palestinian Authority, are called out and held responsible for their actions.

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