Dozens participate in 3rd Annual Arab Palestinian Journalism Conference
Coinciding with World Press Freedom Day, I’lam hosted its third conference on Arab Palestinian journalists on Saturday 3rd May 2014 in Nazareth. Topics discussed included the discrimination against the Palestinian minority, the social, cultural and political problems facing the press as a result of this discrimination and the challenges of new media.
The conference opened with a welcome speech by the Arab attorney and poet Sami Muhanna. The first session “Youth Movements & New Media: The Political and Cultural Dimensions,” was moderated by journalist Rasha Hilwi and included the following participants: Raif Zreik, PhD; Suhair Asaad, lawyer; Tamer Khalifa, activist; Fadi Al-Obrah, activist. The speakers addressed the political and cultural dimensions of youth mobility and new media in the Palestinian context. By the end, they agreed that the new media, also referred to as citizen journalism, overcame the barriers imposed by traditional media. The speakers also agreed that usage of the new media has strengthened the Palestinian people, and managed to bypass controls to form an alternative to traditional media outlets, humanizing the Palestinian cause in general.
After a short break, attendees participated in three different workshops: the first workshop "Media Culture and Cultural Media" was moderated by Maliha Mousselmani, PhD, and Alaa Hlehel. It touched upon the history of the Palestinian media, emphasizing that the media was full of content concerning art and literature until the Oslo agreement. After the agreement, shifts in the cultural landscape began, influenced by a growing lack of respect for Palestinian culture and its correlation to the Arab Palestinian identity. In the workshop participants also discussed literature of resistance, as well as literature on the divided Palestinian state and the negatives effects caused by their portrayal in the Israeli media. Participants concluded there was a need to create a forum of cultural media which works to improve this area.
The second workshop, moderated by Sanaa Lahab and Furat Nassar, was entitled "Challenges for Young Journalists" which discussed the challenges, obstacles and pressures facing the press. It was stated that the media has strong control over national morality. Also noted during the workshop was the fact that the biggest obstacles in journalism derive from institutional obstacles, characterization of the press and Arab nationalism. By the end, it was agreed that the media should observe ethical standards when publishing.
In the third workshop "Media and the Municipal Elections," facilitated by Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi and Mohamad Wattad, participants were asked to discuss the media in the context of local elections – with a particular reference to Nazareth, in light of recent events. In an open discussion, Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi touched on the performance of the media during the time of the recent municipal elections in Nazareth, focusing on the standards of journalistic integrity in the media’s coverage. A lot of the participants expressed their frustration with the media during time, where media demonstrated a bias towards certain candidates which were clearly noticed.
The closing session of the conference was entitled " Challenges in Journalistic Practices: Financial, Social, Legal, and Self-Censorship” and was run by Hanaa Mahamed. Panelists included Wade’a Awawdi, Alaa Mahajna (lawyer), Aida Toma-Suliman and Jackie Khoury. Participants discussed the historical context of the position of opinion, arguing that unlike today, the media before the Nakba was challenging and bold. Participants claimed that the current situation is weak and direly needs to be improved – especially amid the absence of educational institutions working in favor of this consideration. Furthermore, the participants discussed legal restrictions on the journalists – for example, court orders preventing publication and claims of libel – and stressed that there is need to change these restrictions, particularly as the foreign media, who is not bound by Israeli law, is usually able to publish these stories.