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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Freedom of expression, Palestinan Journalists Syndicate-style

A couple of days ago the New York Times has an adoring article about how Palestinian Arab journalists are paying a price for their desire to express themselves freely:

Yousef Shayeb, 37, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, published an article in a Jordanian newspaper this year charging officials at the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Paris with corruption and espionage. In an interview here last week, he said that he had imagined people might thank him for his exposé. Instead, he spent eight days in a Palestinian Authority jail.

Jamal Abu Raihan, a Palestinian blogger, has been in prison for three weeks, after he posted a satirical column lampooning the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a donkey on a Facebook page he ran titled, “The people want an end to corruption.”

And in recent months, on the orders of the attorney general, the authorities have tried to block Palestinians’ access to a number of Web sites that officials said were supportive of Muhammad Dahlan, a onetime Gaza security chief and now a rival of Mr. Abbas.

As Palestinian journalists and activists, imbued with the spirit of the Arab Spring, become more daring and enamored with the possibilities of new media and social networking sites, the primary instinct of some in the Palestinian Authority has been to crack down.
But if you read past the initial paragraphs, you see something a little jarring:
Now Palestinian officials, journalists and bloggers are struggling to define the principles of freedom of expression and its boundaries, and to distinguish between legitimate criticism and defamation.

“We understand that we have a constructive power,” said Nabhan Khraishi, the communications officer for the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, “and on the other hand we have a destructive power that can be a catastrophe.”
Isn't it a little unusual for a journalists' syndicate to talk about how their own people might be crossing the line into "defamation"? Usually they will argue for absolute (or nearly absolute) freedom of expression and let others advocate for limits on such freedoms.

Well, it turns out that the PJS is against freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. From JPost:
Any Palestinian journalists who meet with Israeli colleagues will be expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank, the group warned on Thursday.

The warning followed a meeting that took place last week between Israeli and Palestinian journalists on the occasion of World Free Press Day.

“We are opposed to such meetings because they are designed to achieve normalization with Israel,” said a senior member of the journalists syndicate in Ramallah. “Any member who meets with Israeli journalists will be fired.”
So in the end the leaders of the journalists themselves are the ones who are the most against freedom of expression! In fact, they are acting in ways that are indistinguishable from how the Arab dictators and despots they pretend to despise act.