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
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
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.
JOURNALISM & HOW TO BECOME A JOURNALIST