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In Palestine, another call for a 'media truce'

A group of Palestinian journalists made good use of the Damascus summit by approaching Hamas with a proposal for a "media truce." The initiative aims to remove media and travel bans between Gaza and the West Bank, and to put a stop to the hate speech aimed at the other party.

FADI ABU SADA- BETHLEHEM, April 14, 2008 (MENASSAT) - Shortly after the Hamas takeover in Gaza, Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV broadcast an animated video in which Hamas was represented by a lion closely resembling Disney's Lion King. The Fatah militants were depicted as vicious rats descending on Gaza with weapons provided by the U.S. and Israeli. Needless to say, the movie ends with the Hamas lion triumphing over the Gaza rats.

It is this kind of rethoric, which both Fatah and Hamas are guilty of,  that a group of Palestinian journalists want to call a halt to.

In the past few weeks, a number of independent journalists in the West Bank have cautiously started using the term "truce" in the context of the media war between the Palestinian parties.

Surprisingly, the idea came out of the Arab summit in Damascus which most commentators have derided for its lack of concrete results.

But for Palestinian journalists across sectarian lines it was an opportunity to meet as journalists from both the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled West Bank traveled to Syria to cover the summit. Among them were the initiators of the proposed media truce.

Mohammad Daraghmeh of the Associated Press and Nasser al-Lahham from the Maan news agency took advantage of an interview opportunity  with the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, to approach him with their idea.

No more hate speech

The initiative focuses on removing the obstacles that Palestinian media outlets have faced since the internal Palestinian conflict erupted in May of last year.

Mashaal welcomed the initiative and approved of it

The initiative can be summarized in three main points:

1) to lift the ban on all media institutions affiliated with the opposing party. This means allowing Hamas-affiliated newspapers al-Risala and Phalastine and Al-Aqsa TV to resume publication/broadcasting in the West Bank. Similarly, Hamas would have to allow Palestine TV to resume broadcasting in Gaza and lift the ban on al-Ayyam newspaper, which was taken out of circulation after it published a cartoon that was deemed defamatory to Hamas.

2) to lift the travel ban on Palestinian journalists who want to move between Gaza an the West Bank. This implies allowing the return of Palestine TV journalists to work in Gaza after they were forbidden from doing so by Hamas. The same goes for Hamas-affiliated journalists working in the West Bank.

3) perhaps the most important clause of all, it seeks to remove all "non-informative terminology" from the print and audiovisual media. This means no more hate speech directed at the other party.

"Few regimes are still banning media from broadcasting or publishing or distributing, especially since we are living in the Internet era where information is global," Mohammad Daraghmeh told MENASSAT. "More importantly, the Palestinian territories have always been open to everyone, so it is not acceptable to allow foreign journalists in while the local media are banned.”

Waiting for Fatah

According to Daraghmeh, "The regression in the media language is harming the readers and listeners. And the defaming terms used by both the parties is making the public lose its confidence in the local media, which is a disaster."

Currently, the division in the Palestinian media is a reflection of the geographical and political reality. Daraghmeh feels that the media should instead be building "media bridges" between the two parties.

"The Palestinian citizen who lives in the West Bank is interested in reading the Gaza-published newspapers if only to find out where Hamas stands on the issues. And the same goes for the citizen living in Gaza."

The initiators told MENASSAT that they are currently making calls to arrange a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to present them with their initiative, in the hope that Fatah too would welcome it.