UNESCO launches landmark study to assist media development in Palestine
On 18 June, UNESCO launched its report on media development in Palestine, to an audience of more than 80 stakeholders, at an event organized in Ramallah and, simultaneously, through remote communications in Gaza.
The report is the result of an 18 months study carried out in partnership with the Media Development Center (MDC) of Birzeit University. It is based on UNESCO’s internationally-endorsed Media Development Indicators (MDIs) and is the third MDI assessment to be completed in the Arab region, after studies in Egypt and Tunisia.
The report recognizes the existence of a guarantee of the right to freedom of expression in the Palestinian Basic Law, which serves in lieu of a constitution, and calls for this to be strengthened. The recommendations highlight that existing legal restrictions on free expression should be amended to be in line with international standards of necessity and proportionality.
The study also encourages the national authorities to adopt a right to information law, drawing on extensive work already completed in this area with civil society organizations. It further recommends the establishment of an independent regulatory body, the transformation of the Palestinian Public Radio and Television Corporation into an independent public service broadcaster, and the promotion of community media.
The report proposes that the media industry develop an effective system for self-regulation, and invites universities to modernize their media programmes and consider the establishment of a Master’s programme on media. It acknowledges the efforts of the national authorities to involve civil society in the development of a new strategic ICT and digital transition plan and encourages them to continue following this approach.
The launch event for the report brought together representatives of both public and private media organizations, the government, civil society, universities, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and international partners.
Attending the launch on behalf of the Palestinian Government, Ehaib Bessaiso, Director of the Government Media Center and Government Spokesperson, stated: “We need this study and we need many contributions to the media. Without this, we will never be able to take a step forward.”
He added: “We promise that we as government will review all recommendations and work in full partnership to enhance media development for accountability and democracy."
Lodovico Folin Calabi, Officer in charge of the UNESCO Office in Ramallah, explained that the study would “provide a reliable resource for policy makers, the media, civil society organizations, universities and training institutions, in order to promote an enabling environment for free, independent and pluralistic media in Palestine, with reference to key international standards”. The report also provides insight to priorities that donors and international partners can draw on to effectively target assistance based on the needs of national stakeholders.
The publication of the report comes two months after Palestine applied to join 15 international human rights conventions and treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. The publication also coincides with discussions in Palestine on the development and implementation of a National Media Strategy.
The public launch event discussed the main conclusions of the report as well as follow-up to ensure engagement with the report’s recommendations.
Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, who facilitated the panel on integrating the results of the assessment in Palestine’s National Media Strategy, encouraged continued dialogue amongst all relevant actors in order to identify areas of shared interest and ensure implementation.
“This study has the potential to bring actors together to take decisions and mobilize the resources needed to strengthen Palestine’s media and its service to society.”
Nibal Thawabteh, Director of the Media Development Center at Birzeit University, elaborated: "The study will feed into the National Media Strategy, and an action plan with working committees that will be set up on 26 June, and meet regularly afterwards to produce outcomes by the end of 2014."
Other panel discussions covered promoting the safety of media workers, fostering transparency through the right to information, and promoting self-regulation and gender equality in the Palestinian media.
The MDI assessment process in Palestine was nationally-driven and involved wide-ranging consultations with key media stakeholders, in addition to desk-based research. The consultations included a total of 58 in-depth interviews throughout Palestine and an opinion poll targeting 555 journalists across the West Bank and Gaza.
Careful attention was given to systematically including perspectives from all areas as well as to ensuring a gender-sensitive approach. The preliminary findings of the assessment were presented and discussed at two national conferences organized in July and December 2013, each attended by some 120 participants. The feedback received at these conferences was taken into account in the finalization of the report.
The assessment of Palestine’s media landscape using UNESCO’s MDIs was financed by Canal France International, the Government of Finland, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
Contact person: Saorla McCabe (s.mccabe(at)unesco.org)