Translation and Subtitles: Abir Kopty – Freie Universität Berlin
Since the Palestinian Authority’s establishment, a great deal of attention has been paid to media. In 1994, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation was established as well as the Palestine News Agency “Wafa”.
After the signing of the political agreement in 1994, there were several initiatives to establish for the first time a Palestinian Media free from the Israeli Occupation domination.
Al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida newspapers were established and there were a third one that already existed but started to take more boldly the Palestinian direction, which is al-Quds Newspaper.
Since 1994, these three newspapers shaped a new turning point in the history of the Palestinian print media, which lived for 40 years under a military censorship by the Israeli occupation. At the time there was no independent Palestinian media, rather newspapers under censorship of the Israeli occupation and under military law, which controlled the news, headlines, sentences, and images.
Before that, the Palestinian media was under the British mandate and prior to that it was under the Ottoman mandate. In these stages, the media adapted to the colonial narrative that occupied Palestine. It was Turkish (under Ottoman rule) that followed the Asitana, or British instructive (under British rule), which means it was similar to the BBC, or targeted media to the Arab region. In the four stages I mentioned, the Ottoman, the British, the Israeli, and finally the Palestinian, the Palestinian media sought to create its own rules and to progress away from the establishment.
We can say, that in the last phase, under the Palestinian Authority and PLO, there are independent newspapers, with capital from the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian businessmen. Its cadre is more independent and more free from the censorship of the previous times, but that doesn’t mean that the three newspapers achieved enough freedom of speech and expression. Till now, it is labelled as an institutional media that acclaim its existence but does not score any achievements in the freedom of speech and expression and does not influence the political scene or leave significant fingerprints. The hope is that the future will bring change to the Palestinian Media.
Among other Arab countries, Palestine is one of the countries that had pioneered in the radio broadcast. “Huna al-Quds” was the second Arab radio station, established in 1936. Its first chief was Ibrahim Toukan, a poet and intellectual who enjoyed the trust of the majority of Palestinians.
In 1940, there was about 20 different Arab radio channels, however, “Huna al-Quds”, which was airing from Jerusalem, was number one. It was the most attracting channel for the intellectuals and writers, who chose to air their programs there, such as Abbas Mahmoud al-Akkad. Also many of the songs that were recorded there still exist.
This pioneering stopped with the Nakba, and a new phase has started, which is the Palestinian revolutionary radios that were first launched from Amman, Damascus, and Beirut and included Fatah Radio “Ala’asefa” and PFLP radio. These radio stations served to mobilize Palestinians to fight. These stations were moving around between Adan, Sanaa, Algeria and Baghdad. I personally worked at one of them, which was the Palestinian Revolution Radio, in Baghdad. It included the finest cadre and produced the Revolutionary Anthem that is been sung by the Palestinian revolutionary youth till this day.
This phase ended with the return of the Palestinian Authority to the homeland and the radio cadres came first to Jericho, where they formed “Voice of Palestine” station that is still airing to this day. The big challenge they faced is to shift from the political revolutionary propaganda into community service to the Palestinians. Despite the difficulty of the shift, the station managed to win Palestinian interest, and that for a long time. Afterwards, many newly formed stations started to compete with it, and now we have in this small geographic region more than 80 licensed radio stations, which means the competition is very high compared to the small number of listeners in the country. Now the Palestinian people are choosing between 80 different stations, among these is the official “Voice of Palestine”, which comes maybe second or third in the rating. There is Ajyal, Raya FM, 24 FM and many others. Some of the stations are local such as Bethlehem Radio 2000 and Ramallah Radio, and others are nationwide stations. The competition is very big and very diverse but with very weak finance, therefore what controls the Palestinian media industry is the capital.
(Emad al-Asfar – Former General Program Manager at Palestine TV)
With the arrival of the National Palestinian Authority the Palestine TV was established. The cadres that worked in the beginning had radio background and not visual artistic background, for that it had a weak start.
Being established in 1995, during a prosperity of satellite channels where any Palestinian can choose between hundreds of channels, the channel had to compete intensively. The occupation practices prevented the channel from acquiring many of the equipment. The Palestinian Authority’s budget was limited and therefore could not attract highly qualified cadres to the channel. And unfortunately, many of the channel’s cadres who become qualified and important eventually leave to another Arabic Satellite channels because of the high salaries offered to them.
Other aspects of working in the TV sector in Palestine is that this industry is very dependent on money, which is almost not available.
Another aspect is the intense political competition and polarization that dominates the public in Palestine, which led to having 13 Palestinian satellite channels. This diversity is the foundation of democracy, but unfortunately the diversity is based on political partisanship. As Palestinians we need a public television, where salaries are being paid by the public and its work is being monitored by the Palestinian parliament, and it should be prevented from dealing with commercials and advertising, but unfortunately this is not the case. There are signs that the public Palestinian media is transforming towards community service, funded by the citizen, banned to deal with advertising, and questioned by the parliament. This is what we aspire for, this is what being worked on in addition to proposing legislations to regulate the media.