Today, 3 May, is the United Nations' World Press Freedom Day, celebrated around the world. The United States consul for press affairs in Jerusalem, Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, invited members of the Palestinian press to a special celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah to honour the achievements of Palestinian journalists.Now, I spend a fair amount of time reading Palestinian Arab news sources in both English and autotranslated Arabic. With one exception, every major news source is clearly aligned with a political party, and the news is slanted that way (for example, Fatah-leaning newspapers will refer to Fatah victims of intraPal violence as "martyrs", and Hamas-leaning papers will do the same for Hamas victims.) With one exception, even basic journalistic standards of unbiased reporting is completely ignored in the Palestinian Arab media. Wafa, Al-Ayyam, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, Paltoday - all of them have the journalistic standards of the National Enquirer.
In her speech, Schweitzer-Bluhm applauded the Palestinian journalists for their "dedication to service", "commitment to getting at the truth" and "solidarity and bravery in the face of intimidation."
She particularly expressed her appreciation of the obstacles Palestinian media personnel must overcome to carry out their jobs, mentioning roadblocks, checkpoints, accusations of bias, threats, violence and gunfire. "Despite these obstacles, you do get the news out every day," she congratulated.
She applauded Palestinian journalists for challenging their own government, governments of neighbouring countries and the government of the United States. "Your inquiries and reports are a required part of a democratic Palestinian society," she said. "You are providing your fellow citizens with the information, the tools, to make decisions and be active members of their society. I urge you to continue to question and investigate and report."
Schweitzer-Bluhm described all attacks on journalists and freedom of speech as "despicable", adding, "And to those who would try to intimidate you or curtail your freedom of speech, I say no one is free if there is not freedom of information," she said.
The one exception is Ma'an News, which to its credit will take on PalArab corruption and internal violence. Ma'an is not afraid to report negative things about the PA.
But its impartiality ends at the Green Line. While a Reuters or an AP may highlight and believe every absurd claim of violence that PalArabs have against Israel, they will at least mention if Israel denies the accusation. Not so for Ma'an - any random "witness" is believed completely when the accusation is against Israel, and no attempt is even made to confirm these stories.
I don't know whether the reason for Ma'an's partiality is because their reporters have no interest in the truth, or if they are afraid to report the truth, or if they are simply so brainwashed that they can't even conceive that there might be another side to the story. But there is simply no Palestinian Arab news outlet that can be said to be helpful in advancing the cause of peace with Israel.
And Ma'an is the best of the lot. One only needs to read Palestinian Media Watch or MEMRI to see the blatant anti-semitism, lionization of death and murder, and absurd hate that permeates the Palestinian Arab media.
And for this US official to praise this supposed press freedom without any reservations is very troubling indeed.
UPDATE: Islamic Jihad celebrated World Press Freedom Day with a statement that perverts the entire idea of freedom. Autotranslated from Paltoday:
Demanded that the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine today, the occasion of World Press Freedom Day today, Thursday,, the masses of journalists, to focus on the fundamentals it meets all our people away from the differences and contradictions Media battalion is developed in all our battles.Nice of them to tell the media what they should cover to advance their cause. The fact that they have RPGs to back up their request shouldn't be a problem at all.
The movement said in a statement the "Palestine today," a copy of which, the role played by the media in highlighting the novel and impose national, and avoid discord and show Unionist voice of our people.
The movement said in a statement "the day World Press Freedom Day, journalists live atmosphere of persecution and oppression and gagged and confiscated liberties, spared no prosecutions were kidnapped and killed and arrested, at the hands of the enemies of freedom around the world, topped by the head of the evil American and pampered State of the Zionist entity."