In February 2019, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) – a GFMD member – announced the launch of its own Press Freedom Index.
Based on eight areas and 72 indicators, the index now makes it possible to measure indicators of media freedom in Palestine on a scientific basis.
GFMD spoke to Mousa Rimawi, MADA’s Director General and a member of GFMD’s Steering Committee, to further understand the significance of this index and its contribution to MADA’s work in promoting freedom of expression in the region.
GFMD: What are the main challenges to media freedom in Palestine at the moment?
Mousa: Palestinian journalists face several threats such as arrests, authorities blocking them from covering incidents, and forcibly closing journalistic institutions. Evidence shows that journalists have been specifically and directly targeted by Israeli authorities in the last year. Such threats from the Israeli occupation side are numerous and pose the highest risk to journalists, researchers, and activists.But of course, this is just one part of the story. On the Palestinian side, the violations of press freedom originate from the two parties in the West Bank and Gaza – The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, respectively. The count reached 548 instances of violations with two journalists killed in Gaza while doing their job.
Palestinian Basic Law guarantees the freedom of expression. In 2014, the Palestinian government even signed various international agreements to guarantee these right to the people and the press. Now, there is an urgent need to stop press freedom violations and protect the rights of journalists under this Palestinian Basic Law.
GFMD: What led MADA Center to establish the index?
Mousa: Although MADA has released several reports in the last 12 years, this is the first index of its kind to provide an overview of the degree of freedom that news organisations and journalists have in Palestine. It is very important for us, as now we can, along with other institutions, compare between the reality of press freedom in two different periods.
While reporting on instances of press freedom violations is an important aspect, it does not convey the entire picture. The Palestinian Press Freedom index was launched to cover all aspects related to press freedom in Palestine.
GFMD: What gaps do you hope the index will bridge?
Mousa: The index allows us to keep track of developments, both positive and negative. It allows us to build on the results and comparisons, which could then be adopted by other organisations to develop programmes and derive policies.
While we hope to catalyse positive developments, we also aim to reduce the impact of the negative developments that have been found through the index. More specifically, the violations against media and journalists. Ultimately, the index is a step to further the development of media and promote of freedom of expression in Palestine.
GFMD: In what ways does being part of GFMD assist them with their work?
Mousa: We are happy to be a member of GFMD and its steering committee. It helps us to learn more about the best practices of other members and organisations. Moreover, it allows us to showcase our experience and our work, such as the index which can be used by many organisations that are members of GFMD.
For instance, institutions in Arab countries that do not have such an index can benefit from our experience and work. This index is scientific study based on international standards, and takes into consideration the Palestinian situation.
It is clear that there are many challenges to ensuring press freedom all over the world. This means that there is a necessity for all member organisations and institutions to cooperate with each other, to share their experiences and best practices, in order to collective defend the freedom of expression and press.
MADA welcomes further feedback on the index from GFMD and its members.
Interview by Momin Badarna