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August 3, 2016 2:13 pm

PA Media Expert: Abbas’ Declaration of ‘Freedom of Opinion, Speech Day in Palestine’ a Case of ‘Turning Truth Upside Down’

avatar by Ruthie Blum

PA President Abbas  with

PA President Abbas with International Federation of Journalists Deputy Secretary-General Jeremy Dear in Ramallah. Photo: Facebook.

The head of an Israel-based research organization ridiculed PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday for “creating, as policy, a virtual reality in which all truth is turned upside down.”

Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), was referring to a report in the official PA daily on Tuesday that Abbas had declared that he was going “to strengthen the freedom of the press in the Arab world, and decided that August 1 will be Freedom of Opinion and Speech Day in Palestine.”

Expanding on his critique, Marcus told The Algemeiner: “Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian mass murderer of Israelis, so Abbas decides to have him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Abbas’ PA TV for kids teaches that Jews are the enemies of Allah, and his mufti teaches that the role of Muslims is to bring about the extermination of Jews. Yet his PA accuses Israel of initiating a religious war.”

Where freedom of the press is concerned, Marcus said, “The PA media is owned and controlled by the PA, and its directors are appointed by Abbas himself. Palestinians have been arrested for posting messages critical of Abbas and the PA on Facebook. And now Abbas is presenting himself as a defender of free speech. If Abbas is considering having a free media, he has to start by limiting himself and his control. If he does not do so, this is just another example of his purposely presenting a stance that is diametrically opposed to the truth.”

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The PMW translation of the article in which Abbas’ initiative was announced reads as follows:

Headline: “Palestine initiates: The president lays the cornerstone for the advancement of freedom of the press in the Arab world – Mahmoud Abbas decides that August 1 will be Freedom of Opinion and Speech Day in Palestine

“[PA] President Mahmoud Abbas signed a declaration yesterday [Aug. 2, 2016] to strengthen the freedom of the press in the Arab world, and decided that August 1 will be Freedom of Opinion and Speech Day in Palestine.

“This was during the president’s meeting with a delegation from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. The delegation included Deputy Secretary-General of the Federation Jeremy Dear…

“The president’s signature on the declaration constituted a historical event on the Palestinian level and on the Arab level, and it laid the foundation on which the Arabs will continue to build…

“Echoes of this signature, initiated by President Abbas – the first Arab president to do so – will spread to Arab states and the [entire] world, and its fruits will be reaped by Arab journalists, who have been calling for the guarantee of freedom of opinion and speech for a long time.

“The deputy secretary-general of the IFJ emphasized that President Abbas’ signature on the declaration to strengthen the freedom of the press, when [Palestine] is the first state to do this, is a historic day for freedom of the press in Palestine and the Arab world.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 3, 2016]

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Tuesday wrote that Abbas “became the first Arab leader to sign the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World at a meeting in Ramallah with officials from the IFJ and Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS)” and “warmly welcomed the President’s and prime minister’s commitment to work with the PJS and civil society organisations to extend media freedom and the rights of journalists.”

The IFJ described the declaration as  “a clear commitment to the principles of media freedom, independent journalism and the right to information,” and “the first step to establishing a Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the region to uphold the principles contained in the Declaration.”

Among the principles listed are: “Freedom of expression; freedom of information; journalists’ safety; media law reform; self-regulation; equality; hate speech and intolerance; and independence of public service broadcasters.”


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