Palestinian Press Under Siege p. 16

By: Editorial Staff THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY has made a "concerted and systematic" effort to stifle press freedom in the region and silence the government's critics, Jerusalem-based Peace Watch said in a report.
Since the Authority was established in May 1994, government-run radio and television stations have broadcast a consistently pro-government line, giving virtually no opportunity to opposition figures to express their opinions, according to the nonpartisan group.
Consequently, the only free press in which alternative views can be expressed are Palestinian newspapers published in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
However, the Authority has consistently sought to control reporting in these news organizations. Two leading dailies, Al-Quds and An-Nahar, were forced to adopt positions close to those of the Authority and some opposition media were shut down.
According to Peace Watch, the Authority has utilized several other methods of suppressing the media, including censorship, interference with newspaper distribution and threats against journalists.
Peace Watch research of major dailies during the Palestinian elections last January revealed a "substantial imbalance" in favor of Yasser Arafat and candidates affiliated with his Fatah Party.
The lack of press freedom took on added meaning during the elections, Peace Watch maintained.
"The effective stifling of Palestinian newspapers, and the resulting lack of open debate, have substantially undermined the intended free and democratic character of the elections," the report said. "If the elected Palestinian government does not make the restoration of freedom of the press an immediate priority, the election's goal of bringing about democratic rule is likely to remain unfulfilled."
During a visit here last fall, several Palestinian newspeople related their struggles in a group interview (E&P, Dec. 2, 1995).


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