World Press Freedom Day: PCHR Demands Protection for Media Freedoms and Accountability for Israeli Crimes against Press
Date: 03 May 2021
Time: 11:30 GMT
Today, 03 May 2021, marks the World Press Freedom Day, which was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993 as per the UNESCO general conference recommendation. Since then, this day is dedicated to celebrating freedom of the press globally and to discussions on how to promote and protect the press.
In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), this day is marked as Palestinian journalists suffer under persistent targeting and persecution by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) in an attempt to silence the press, hide the truth, and enjoy complete control over its victims. This conduct by IOF is a violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, particularly Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Annually, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights documents dozens of assault cases on the freedom of the press by the Israeli occupation authorities, including live shooting at journalists, confiscation of their equipment, arrests and raids on media organizations, and closure of media offices. There were also instances where journalists were directly targeted and injured by IOF live and rubber bullets, and it cost some journalists their lives for their role in exposing the Israeli occupation’s crimes in the oPt.
On the other end, violations of the freedoms of expression and press by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continue. PCHR has documented tens of violations against journalists and opinion makers annually across the oPt, as they are subjected to threats, assaults, persecution, arbitrary arrest and denied the right to access information.
In April 2014, the State of Palestine became a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right; hence, it is obliged to respect and protect and enable all enchained rights and freedoms, including Article 19 which emphasized the freedoms of expression, opinion and access to information.
This year, the United Nations’ theme for World Press Freedom Day is ‘Information as a Public Good’, which underlines the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information, “It” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind.”
It should be mentioned that the State of Palestine does not have so far a law that protects the right to information despite all demands by human rights organizations for years as well as a draft bill which is ready and only needs few reforms to keep up with today’s requirements.
Journalists and citizens face obstacles in general when obtaining information due to lack of a system for collecting and classifying information on one hand and lack of transparency on the other hand and unwillingness of the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to go through public control.
Moreover, those seeking information from the official authorities, particularly in the Gaza Strip, or those wanting to collect timely information from the field or take photos are either subject to detention or interrogation by the security services. Also, the Gaza authorities request permits for any activities related to information collection as if any information or photo have become within the confidential information. Different ministries, particularly the Ministry of Health, impose tightened restrictions on obtaining information.
PCHR stresses the importance of the right to freedom of expression in achieving progress and prosperity. PCHR also emphasizes that this right ensures recognition of other human rights, recalling that the right to freedom of expression and practicing journalism are both guaranteed by Articles 19 and 27 in the Palestinian Basic Law. Thus, PCHR calls upon the authorities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to respect, protect and recognize the freedom of expression, including access to information.
PCHR also calls for establishing a comprehensive official system to preserve information in an arranged and categorized form and present it to the public without any arbitrary restrictions.
PCHR also calls upon the international community to condemn the Israeli authorities’ practices against journalists and their ongoing attempts to silence the press and conceal the reality of IOF’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territory. PCHR also calls upon the Public Prosecutor of the international Criminal Law (ICC) to include the Israeli crimes against journalists within ICC’s investigations into the crimes committed in the oPt since 13 June 2014.
 World Press Freedom Day 2021: Information as a Public Good, available here: https://www.un.org/en/civil-society/world-press-freedom-day-2021