Translation and Subtitles: Abir Kopty – Freie Universität Berlin
It is the eastern gate that consecutive civilizations had stepped in throughout history. Palestine, the heart of ancient world, is located south-west of the Levant between the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the Jordan River in the east. It was first inhabited by Arab Canaanites and afterwards many other nations and states have competed to reign such as Babylonian and Assyrian then Persian and Roman till the Islamic conquests in the 7th century. The last Islamic ruling ended with the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in WWI and the takeover of British troops in 1917.
During this period, the British government facilitated the entry of the Jews to Palestine, who sought to establish a nation-state for the Jews by forced mass displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians, who were forced out of their homes and lands, in 1948. That year is known now as the year of the Nakba (Catastrophe).
In 1967, the Israeli occupation seized the rest of the Palestinian lands, which is the West Bank and Gaza strip. The harsh situation of the Palestinians under the Israeli Occupation led to the First Intifada in 1987, where the Palestinians confronted Israeli’s cannon with rocks.
In 1993, the Oslo Accord was signed between Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Israeli Occupation. Under this agreement, the PLO recognized the Israeli state and in return it was granted an autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians called it the Palestinian National Authority.
The Oslo accord divided the West Bank and Gaza Strip into three administrative areas: Area A is exclusively administered by the Palestinian Authority; Area B is administered by Palestinian civil administration but under Israeli security control; Area C is administered fully by Israel, which includes 61% of the total area of the West Bank.
The political history of Palestine required a strong media presence that is able to convey its reality, therefore, the Palestinian Media role is considered as one that serves the cause.
In this film, we will look at the reality of the Palestinian Media and the challenges it faces.
Palestine is one of the first Arab coun
rtries that had printing in 1830, which was the pretext to the emergence of the Press. It was the 5th Arab state which had print media.
The media in Palestine emerged in 1876, when the first newspaper was printed under the Ottoman Empire, and it was called “al-Quds al-Sharif”.
After the Ottoman constitution was announced, in 1908, and till the WWI started, there was thirty-six Palestinian newspapers.
In 1936, the first Palestinian Radio was established and called “Huna al-Quds”. The first TV broadcast started only in 1994 from Gaza.
The Palestinian print media started in early times during the Ottoman rule of Palestine in 1876. This continued until the WWI in 1914. The end of the Ottoman rule altered the political reality in Palestine and resulted in the halt of all newspapers.
In 1919, the papers returned to life with the British Mandate. During the mandate, between 1919 until 1948, different cultural, political and social newspapers were developed and advanced to reach a number of 241 newspapers.
Also, that period witnessed the beginning of the Palestinian radio broadcasting. The British Authorities operated the Near East Broadcasting Station, which was airing from Jaffa (before that it was in Jenin). There was also “Huna al-Quds” from Jerusalem, which was a kind of Arabic chapter of British Radio. It was headed by the prominent Palestinian poet, Ibrahim Toukan, who managed to bring together many artists, intellectuals and politicians and turn this into a national and cultural platform.
The development of the media in Palestine continued until the establishment of the Israeli state – the “Nakba” in 1948, where all the 241 newspapers ceased to exist and Huna al-Quds Radio Station closed. This was also regarded as a “Nakba” to the Palestinian media.
Due to the new political reality after 1948, a new media model emerged that was driven by political parties to defy the new reality under the Israeli Occupation. One of the most significant newspapers, which still exist until today, was the communist party’s newspaper, published in the areas of 1948. In West Bank and Gaza, a similar model emerged when political parties and movements started to publish their political stands or to mobilize nationally, either through other newspapers or by establishing their own partisan newspapers after taking the permissions from the ruling authorities in West Bank or Gaza, like al-Quds newspaper, which still exists today.
In 1967, Israeli Authorities occupied the rest of Palestinian land and the media stopped again because of its new political reality with a new ruling authority. However, al-Quds Newspaper relaunched again and other newspapers were publishing during these times but they were predominantly partisan and underground. After 1967, the role of the partisan newspapers has changed significantly in Palestine. They were published underground and played an important role to mobilize the public opinion.
This continued till the Oslo Accord was signed in 1993 and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the media reality in Palestine has fundamentally transformed. New newspapers were founded, including a new official newspaper such as al-Hayat al-Jadida and independent newspapers such as al-Ayyam, considered close to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). There were other partisan newspapers that belong to Islamic currents. These currents were something new for the political life in Palestine, and they started to emerge at the end of the 1980s. After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, these currents managed to get licenses to publish newspapers in the nature of Political-Islam.
Private TV broadcast has also emerged. These channels were transmitting on a local frequency around their cities. Almost every Palestinian city in the West Bank had at least one local TV station that covered its local news.
This developed took place until the emergence of the satellite channels. Beside the official Palestinian channel, Palestine TV, there are independent channels such as Maan, and social and entertainment channels such as al-Falstiniah, and specialized channels such as An-Najah of the An-Najah University and al-Quds Education channel. There are also partisan channels such as Palestine Today which belongs to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, al-Aqsa and al-Quds of Hamas movement, and al-Awda that belongs to Fatah movement.
While the print media, especially the partisan, started to fade, the satellite media started to rise which included partisan, independent, commercial and official.
SOCIETY & AREAS OF CONFLICT
The Media is naturally influenced by the environment it functions within. The Palestinian Media is unique in that respect as it functions under the Israeli occupation which works to block it from conveying the truth.
The experience in Palestine is very unique, since Palestine was never an independent state, and therefore was denied the opportunity to keep up with other countries and to consolidate its media as a state.
There are many precedents related to the Palestinian media. For example, in 1908, there was a Palestinian newspaper that published a women section, this was unique comparing to the surrounding countries. The lady who used to write this section was Sathej Nassar, and she was the first woman to be jailed by the British Mandate for six months.
Her husband, Badea Nassar, who is also the publisher of the newspaper “al-Carmel” wrote to her: “If history will not remember me for publishing “al-Carmel” magazine, it will remember me for being the husband of the first lady arrested by the British Mandate.”
She was arrested for her journalistic work.
This is one precedent, there are others, for example in the radio sphere, even though Palestine has never been an independent state, the radio station “Huna al-Quds” was the second radio in the Arab World, and in the radio there was a host called Fatimah Albudairi, who was the third female radio presenter in the Arab world.
I think these precedents in the Palestinian media are important, but it was disturbed by the British Mandate, then by the Nakba, and later disturbed too by the Naksah (in 1967). But Palestinians maintained a strong media presence through other Arab radio stations.
On the level of visual arts, there were some minor precedents, such as having the first Arab women as a photographer, her name was “Karimah Abboud”, we can find today some of her art work in Nazareth. There was also “Sulafah Jadallah” who was the first Arab woman who studied film making and the first film director and camera woman who was documenting warfare. She documented the battles of Black September.
Because Palestinians are living under occupation, this issue occupies the majority of the media coverage. That includes Political news, news from the field about the attacks of the occupation on the Palestinian people. This is valid to all types of media, print, audio, visual or electronic.
However, this does not mean that other aspects, such as local news or economy are not covered. “al-Hayat al-Jadida” is distinguished by its investigative reports on economy. Other outlets have other specialized coverage. But the occupation practices, the oppression of the Palestinian people, is dominant in the journalists’ work and the nature of media coverage and message. The journalist is not isolated from the people, he is also targeted. He is present behind the camera but in many cases present also in front of the camera as a victim.
To compare the Palestinian media reality with another media reality, we need to remove “media” and say political reality, social reality, cultural reality. These realities will immediately get to the media, not the media in the traditional concept, but as a parameter for the existential and cultural conditions and the consciousness movement condition.
Eventually the media reproduces the movement of consciousness as a simulated covenant or linguistic covenant, and this movement of the consciousness is not a positive nor negative thing. It is just a concept of how things are formed, how people view themselves politically. You will see for example that in some contexts, the sectarian aspect is strong, because it’s a social aspect. In our context, the political-factional aspect is strongly present, because factions recreated “sects”. In other contexts, their will the conflict between corporations/companies that is present, in a liberal-capitalist nature.
Replacing companies by factions, or sects, asserts that the media works within the same structure. In the corporations’ context for example, you will find the advertisement as dominant, say the paradigm of Pepsi and CocaCola. In the sectarian context, you will identify to which sect the channel belongs as soon as you see its logo. In Palestine, you will identify to which faction the channel belongs as soon as you watch the news or view a slogan.
The crisis of the Arab media lies in the transformation from a historical mission that should have matured, to a service mission. This media transformed the political, the cultural and the consumer affairs into similar concepts.
However, the Palestinian case is distinguished due to the conflict with the occupation. This is the only aspect that differs the Palestinians from the rest of the Arab world.
Unfortunately, if you make a qualitative and quantitative study on the Palestinian media discourse, you will find that more than the half reflects the internal political and social discourse, perhaps more than the conflict with the occupation.
This culminated in the Palestinian internal conflict that developed into division, militarized and violent confrontation. Today, you can notice that in the context of the occupation, the media does not focus on core issue, such as the borders or Jerusalem or refugees. It focuses on the Authority’s priorities, whether in the West Bank or Gaza. The catastrophe here, is that our media is practicing what can be called political money laundry or political reality whitewashing.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE MEDIA SYSTEM
With the arrival of the National Authority in 1994, the Palestinian media was energized and diversified between public and private ownership. The authority then rushed with laws to regulate media and give licenses to the media institutions. Today, the Palestinian scene is witnessing an increasing number of media outlets, most notably, al-Hayat al-Jadida established by Nabil Amr in 1994 and currently owned by the Palestinian Investment Fund and considered the official newspaper in Palestine.
Al-Ayyam Newspaper launched in 1995 by Al-Ayyam Publishing House.
Al-Quds is one of the oldest Palestinian newspapers, which still exist to date, it was founded by Mahmoud Abu Zuluf in Jerusalem in 1951. The current editor-in-chief is Walid Abu Zuluf.
On the radio level, there are 68 local radio stations, among them, Ajyal Radio Network owned by Bakri Radio Broadcasting Company that owns three stations with 22 wave frequency, which first founded Ajyal Radio in 1999.
Raya FM launched in 2006 by Raya Advertising and Publishing and it is a private radio.
As for the TV broadcasting, there are 28 local and satellite channels, among these is “Palestine TV” the official channel of the Palestinian Authority, founded in 1994. The channel is part of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation.
“Al-Aqsa” satellite channel was founded in 2006 in Gaza.
There are channels that broadcast from outside Palestine such as “al-Quds” satellite channel that was launched in 2008 from Beirut by a group of Palestinians in the diaspora.
“Palestine Today” broadcasts from London and was founded in 2013. The channel is owned by a group of Palestinian and Arab businessmen.
The Palestinian media is potentially free and seeks to be free, however, it is constrained by the Israeli occupation. The Palestinian satellite channels tried to commit to a free media approach, and tried to push through the Palestinian narrative and story by covering different angles of pain, suffering, torture and cruelty including the stories of the arrests, home demolishing, land confiscation, the humiliation on the check-points of the occupation and others.
Until this moment, there is only one law that regulates the development of media in Palestine, which is the law of copyright. We have drafted 4 laws that haven’t been approved yet. These are the Journalists’ Syndicate law, the Visual and Audio Broadcasting law, Media Supreme Council law, and another one. This is an obstacle for the development of the Palestinian media. The Palestinian media needs a legal reference to help its development.
We are facing many problems between the journalists and different institutions regarding libel, slander and defamation cases. These cases are being referred to criminal court, which holdback the evolution of the Palestinian media. We honestly need a new law that deals with these accusations in order to protect the journalism and journalists. Till this moment, we are suffering from absence of a law that prevent journalists from going to prison for publishing a report, as is the case in many other countries. We are working as journalists, academics and union members for that law to be adopted in Palestine. But till now, the Palestinian authority has not adapted, in any law, the protection of journalists from the assault of either the political or financial institutions.
According to a newly published research, internet is considered the most used tool for following the news among Palestinians. Internet penetration have reached 2 million users in Palestine. More than 85% of them rely on Social Media to follow the news and 68% rely on the news websites.
Around 30% of the Palestinian public follow the news on TV. The newspapers and radio are the least favorable by Palestinians, where radio listeners are around 25% and Newspaper readers are around 20%.
Which media tools you use to get the news and information?
- I use is the internet the most because I am mostly on my laptop or computer. I surf the Palestinian, Arabic and international news websites including the Social Media. I do listen to the radio whenever I am driving.
Easy. You do not need to go to the shop to get the newspaper. You can directly visit any website anywhere any time to get the most updated news, unlike the newspapers that publishes news that happened ten hours ago. As for the internet, you get the news of few hours or even minutes ago.
- My time and work is linked to internet, I might spend my whole day on the internet. I could look at news, entertainment, study or work, everything through internet.
- You can say 95% of the time is spent on the computer and 5% on TV. TV became a secondary tool. TV is becoming a tradition just to bring the family together but this even fading because everyone is preferring to be with his computer.
- I do not watch TV that much. Sometime during the holidays, I watch some news of certain events but otherwise I do not use it for news.
- Part of our tradition is when there is a newspaper at home, one could look at it. But no one is committed to go and buy the newspaper for news.
Few years back, we used other mediums to get information, these mediums, such as the newspapers, are dying now. Even flyers, which is used to inform people about certain events, are being replaced by events on Social Media which is more effective. Social Media is also taking a different role, where it is becoming a better tool for documentation and also organizing calendars for events. We also can notice that people are using Social Media for live streaming, people bring a new way to talk about a new story or issue. Now we have different people that talk in different ways about their problems, ambitions, ideas, and the reality they live in.
MEDIA POLITICS & PRESS FREEDOM
Although article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stresses on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Israeli occupation does not respect neither a law or constitution.
In 2015, the violations against press freedom by the Israeli Occupation reached to 4007 cases in West Bank and Gaza. Most of these violations are physical attacks and injuring journalists.
So far in the first quarter of 2016, the violations reached to 80 attacks including the closure of two media institutions.
Currently there are 17 Palestinian journalists in the Israeli occupation’s prisons. Since 1972, 81 journalists were killed by the Israeli occupation.
It is difficult to compare the Palestinian Media to any other media in the world. Why? Because we are under a daily Israeli occupation. The Palestinian media undergoes Israeli pressure, there was a tight Israeli military censorship on Palestinian newspapers. The Israeli occupation authority is trying to subdue the Palestinian Media narratives and exercises great pressure to limit the press freedom, for example, preventing them from accessing to information and even news production.
Therefore, the Palestinian media, is identified with the “Palestinian Union for Journalists and Writers” slogan: “We write by blood for Palestine”. The journalist is a freedom fighter who carries a pen and camera. We have many journalists who were martyred from early days, like Jawhar Hindia and Motiaa Ibrahim and the list is long including Ghassan Kanafani. There is also the assassination of Majid Abo Sharar, who was the chief of the Palestinian United Media, and the two Kamal-s and others, who had written by their blood the pages of Palestinian freedom. The last victim was Omar Nazal, who was arrested while traveling to participate in an international conference.
I say it is very difficult to compare the Palestinian media, which is under the control of the Israeli Occupation, prevented from moving or access the news and even prevented from using cameras. We see how cameras are sprayed with gas and the violent attacks on Palestinian journalists.
Palestine is an occupied country and the last country in the world that is still under occupation. Therefore, the coverage of news by either local or foreign journalists are faced with difficulties due to the laws imposed by the occupation in the occupied territories of 1967 and Jerusalem.
There are several obstacles such as the laws to ban publishing, or ban access under claims of military closed area. There is also the confiscation, and restriction on movement. Personally, the worst for me as photojournalist is the ban on access law i.e. the closed military area. I do not understand it, why declaring a public street, or a farm, or a place where is a demonstration as a closed military zone? I know that military areas are the border areas, or land mine areas, or military compound. But the closed military areas are inside our cities that is under Israeli occupation. There are too many obstacles.
As journalists and the syndicate, we live in a very strange reality that cannot be compared to other communities. The Palestinian journalists live in particular condition due to the Israeli Occupation and the division.
The Palestinian journalist functions on three extreme dimensions. We demand that journalism should be acknowledged as a dangerous field that could impact your life. We consider this a basic right.
There are many attacks against reporters in Gaza by Hamas; there are also some attacks, arrests and summoning to investigation to journalists by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Moreover, there are big violations by the Israeli occupation, which is deliberate and its army has green light to attack journalists. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said clearly that he will face the Palestinian media and went further to shutting down three radio stations in the West Bank and shutting down Palestine Today TV. He also detained a member of the General Secretariat of the journalists’ syndicate.
On all Palestinian fronts, especially in Gaza under Hamas and West Bank under Palestinian Authority, there is no absolute freedom of press and there is a very strict self-censorship, which is stronger than the ruler’s censorship, that journalists practice.
One might find some fearlessness by some newspapers as a result of editor-in-chief or journalists in these newspapers but not due to funder’s or owner’s nature. Therefore, we cannot assume that independent journalism is successful in this frame.
The success depends on the motivation and professionality of the journalists, editors and editors-in-chief. If they want to be professional their journalism will prevail, if they want to be subject to the owner’s or the politician’s agenda.
MEDIA SYSTEM & PUBLIC BROADCASTING
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.
The Palestinian economy suffers very much due to the regulations imposed by the political and economic agreements with the occupation, and that reflects on the media work. Journalists working for local media are underpaid compared to journalists working for foreign media.
Palestinian media institutions are different from each other in term of ownerships and financial resources. The Palestine TV, Voice of Palestine, and Wafa News Agency are official state media and funded by the Palestinian Authority. As for the private media, they depend on advertising and businessmen as a source of funding. There are also partisan media that is funded by the different political factions, such as al-Aqsa TV and Palestine Newspaper that is based in Gaza, and owned by Hamas movement. Al-Awda TV and Mawtini FM are owned by Fatah movement. Palestine Today TV is considered close to the Islamic Jihad Movement. These channels vary in strength depending on the strength and influence of political factions that they belong to.
Palestine, has possibly, the most diverse media in the Arab region and maybe in the whole world. We have the state media, which is owned by the Palestinian Authority. These are media stations such as Palestine TV, Voice of Palestine, Wafa News Agency and al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper.
However, the private media sector has a big share in the television and radio stations. For example, “Alfalstiniah” Satellite channel is privately owned. Most of the radio stations except Voice of Palestine, are privately owned, some of them are making profits and some barely manage to pay the salaries, which makes these radios dependent on advertising. The competition over advertisement led to a drop in the prices of advertising slots, especially in the radio.
There is also the partisan media, most political parties in Palestine established their own radio and television stations. Hamas Movement owns at least five channels, including al-Quds, al-Aqsa, Seraj al-Quds, Huna al-Quds and many other radio stations. In addition, it publishes Palestine Newspaper. The rest of the parities also own media outlets but not necessarily satellite channels, due to their low budget. The Islamic Jihad movement for example, owns Palestine Today TV but other parties have either established radio stations or newspapers or websites.
Therefore, the ownership is diverse between commercial, private, or civil ownership, which belongs to non-governmental organization such as an NGO working on women’s rights who established the “Voice of Women Radio”. The NGO “Woman Technical Committees” publishes a periodical titled “The Voice of Women”. This is also another type of media ownership.
There is a big move of capital into the media in order to impose a certain point of view, and that contradicts the freedom of expression and press. The capital practically controls the media, the owners impose their own point of view through their television, or radio stations, or any other outlet. This limits the freedom of press because the capital controls the journalist, which leads to limit the creativity and innovation by the journalists, affects their progress and development and turn the journalists into a machine rather than a creative person who has independent opinion and thought.
In the past, we were opinionated and against self-representation and would sign articles with our initiations’ name rather than our names. I remember we were signing with “The political analyst for the Palestinian News Agency” or “The editor of homeland affairs”, “The editor of culture affairs”, and so forth. With no names. This was a type of creativity or commitment to the public interest. But today, one finds many of the colleagues emerge without real creativity, because their general attitude is in line with or serves the owner of the media institution, whether its print, visual or audio. This affects the freedom of press and the natural development of the media.
JOURNALISM & HOW TO BECOME A JOURNALIST
Palestine is considered a place where many events take place, and that requires qualified journalists in the field. The number of journalists registered in the Journalists’ Syndicate reached 900 journalists.
Palestinian colleges and universities pay great attention to media programs. In Palestine there are 18 colleges and universities that offer bachelor degree in Media and Journalism and there is an increasing demand from students.
Bassam Ewaida – Head of Media Department in Birzeit University
There are many modalities in the admission of students to Media colleges in Palestine. There are around 18 media departments in Palestine with almost 1000 graduates per year. 60% of the graduates are females but only 7% of them work in the field of journalism compared to 18% of the graduate males. There are different types of admission to the university. There is the direct admission, or interview for admission, or a test. The students’ first year in Birzeit University is a trial period. They can decide whether to stay or not or whether this topic suits them or not.
Ali Abu Samra – Journalist and Media Professor
Concerning practicing the profession of Journalism, it is a talent before any study. It is a willingness to practice this profession but the study provides theoretical framework and methodology in media. Practice is more important than theoretical study.
Bassam Ewaida – Head of Media Department in Birzeit University
According to a poll made by the American organization, Inter News, 54% of the people working in media in Palestine do not hold an academic media degree. Media is a hobby, and a personal desire. This is what I focus on in my lectures and this is what I tell my students. If you like media, study it, it is like you study painting. If you had low grades in high school (like 60%) or had the highest academic certificate, you are not going to employed if you were not able to write a news article, or not able to make a video reportage, or documentary film, or radio news. Therefore, media is an inner desire not more.
Khaldoun al-Barghouthi – Editor at al-Hayat al-Jadida
For the new journalists, first, a journalist should first be equipped with enough general knowledge, second, knowledge about the Palestinian cause, and third, should know who is his/her audience, whether they are Arabs or Westerners, and to communicate with them in the way that corresponds with them and their own culture.
Bassam Ewaida – Head of Media Department in Birzeit University
The media students who do not speak English lose about 80% of their chance to find a job. That’s the first point.
Second point, the more he reads, in another words, if the media student did not follow the daily news or read books, he cannot be a media student.
In addition, Networking. The student should have a big network, because if he/she doesn’t know any of the politicians or economists, then how would they be able to interview them or write about their news. How would it be possible to do investigative journalism? How would it be possible to do a documentary film?
Therefore, English language is very important, Arabic language is important or the country that he lives in, networking, computer literacy, also travel, travel is important. As the great Moroccan thinker Mahdi al-Menjara once said: “In my life, I spent equivalent of seven years in traveling”. Therefore, travel sometimes give great experience. It is as important as education and practical experience, travel is very important in the life of a journalist.
How do you become a journalist?
Since childhood I was in love with press and media, I liked to see anchors on TV. When I was young, I viewed having the name of a reporter on an article as a great achievement.
After high school, I wanted to study journalism and admitted to Media and Journalism at Birzeit University. During my study, I was making internship in more than one place. In my last year of study, I started to work with Zaman News Agency. After graduation, one year ago, I started working at al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper.
I graduated from the Television and Radio program at Birzeit University. I couldn’t find work in my field, but I found a vacancy as photojournalist. I had some experience in photography and started to join my colleagues in the field in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities. After gaining some experience, I learned how and when to capture the right photo, and this is how I became who I am now.
Editor: During my study, especially in my first year, I studied Introduction to Communication and Information Science, I liked it so much. I liked the theoretical perspective on communication, so I decided to continue in the media field. At start, I knew how to write because I developed my writing skills and focused specifically on journalistic style. I also pursued my post-graduate study and worked as a teacher.
The importance of the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate
Tahseen al-Astal – deputy chairman of Palestinian Journalist Syndicate
The Journalists’ Syndicate went through different stages and it was among the first trade union’s experience in Palestine and the Arab world. The first attempts to form it took place in 1924 in Palestine, afterwards, in the 80s, and due to the Israeli pressure and oppression the Syndicate was established under the name “Arab Journalist Union” in Jerusalem.
After the return of the Palestinian National Authority, the late president Yasser Arafat, ordered the establishment of the “Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate”. The first election in the syndicate took place in 2010, which founded a new board that started a new phase and structure for the syndicate. The syndicate consists of a board of directors, secretariat, and the chief. The syndicate’s work is all voluntary. According to its internal regulations, any journalist, who meets the conditions, can join the syndicate. Those conditions include being a media alumnus, working as a journalist, receiving a salary from his or her work, and also having a certain duration of experience.
We educate the journalists on their rights and duties. However, we face many difficulties as we have a big number of graduates from the Palestinian universities, which leads us to share responsibilities with all media institutions and civil society organizations to develop the Palestinian Media and to provide the appropriate conditions for the journalists to work in dignity and be far from all types of extortions, whether it was economic, or in terms of security, or work conditions, or partisan pressure.
Facebook is the most used Social Media platform in Palestine and has more than 1.5 million users, 42% of them are females, which comes the second among the Arab counties. The most liked pages by the Palestinians are the Jawal Communication Company, then the page of singer Mohammad Assaf, then comes the news pages: Shehab News, al-Quds News Network, Palestine TV and al-Quds Newspaper.
What are your most used or followed social media plattforms?
- Facebook of course. It is the platform that provides most the information. There is news’ pages, you just press like then you see the news.
- Facebook, I follow pages of famous journalists and read their news.
- We mostly use Facebook, as we effortlessly get the news.
- Mostly Facebook because it is easy to use the mobile while sitting. Everything gets on Facebook. One can hear or see what are the news in their country.
- The bad side is for those that only use it for entertainment rather than using it for education or read people’s opinions.
- Social Media sites might include false news, but the beauty of it is that some of the topics can be only published there because it will be difficult to be published by the journalist, or the journalist is afraid to publish it.
- Because its news is not always credible, and because it is not official, anyone can open a news page and publish unofficial or false news.
- Sometimes there are no credibility. Or the same news is published in different ways.
- Because most people are after scoops, there is less scrutiny or good documentation of the news, which is very negative. The positive side is that there are many pages who post news 24 hours. Also it is easy to reach out to the analysts and writers by the private messages.
There is no doubt that Social Media takes big attention and interest of the Palestinian society. According to a latest study, almost 86% of the Palestinian youth rely mainly on Social Media as a source for information, especially Facebook. That means, the institutionalized media is fading whether it was newspapers, or television, or radio. Today, 30,000 copies are print of the three daily newspapers; al-Ayyam, al-Quds and al-Hayat so it is clear that the Social Media is taking a big space in the daily lives of the people, at the account of the other news media.
The media institutions bare part of the responsibility for the setback because they resist to turn to tabloid format, which is easier for carrying and reading. Even though the three newspapers established websites and upgraded them lately, they still write according to the protocol and in traditional style and therefore there is no fundamental change.
Compared to other countries in the Middle East, Palestine has the highest rates of Facebook use growth. Today, around 50% of the populations have Facebook. When compared with UAE, Saudi, and Kuwait, people in these countries are using Twitter more than Facebook. Palestine has the highest growth in Facebook users in the Middle East, and highest dependency on Facebook as the main source of information.
Another important point, is the time youth spend on Social Media, which exceeds any other country around Palestine. We should not forget of course, that because Palestine is under occupation, this made Social Media a priority. The concept of “breaking news” and the immediate and quick coverage and documentation of news that activists do, gave space and importance to Social Media in Palestine more than in other surrounding countries.
I believe that the countries of the Arab spring tried to benefit from the Palestinian experience on Social Media especially concerning the documentation of violations by the occupation. Similar to today’s documentation of the bombing of the opposition forces or authority, either in Syria or Iraq or Egypt or around. I believe that the Palestinian experience and the way Palestinians are using Social Media are slightly different than the surrounding countries, in terms of the numbers of users that reaches more than 50%, and in terms of the type of usage. In the Palestinian case, Social Media is not only a tool for social communication but also functions as news media.
I believe that in Third World countries, as long as there are contradictions between the reality and the virtual world, many people will identify with the virtual world, and consider it as a substitute to the reality.
That means people who use Facebook and Instagram, as a space to express themselves freely, they are writing and blogging beyond their ability to practice this right of expression in real life. Therefore, I believe that those platforms will continue to dominate the communication scene in Palestine.
The institutional and traditional media is being dragged to Social Media. This is clear when we look at the many mistakes that happened in the last few months, and the false news being published online due to the reliance of traditional media on activists to get scoops. The Social Media is now the compass. This virtual world where there are no boundaries, regulations or ethics, is the compass.
The Palestinian media grew with the growth of the Palestinian cause. Its main interest was to bring it to the world, hoping that everyone will see and understand the just cause. Journalism is the strongest weapon that is able to convey the message and bring the change.