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Palestinian media organizations condemn ‎new PA law that restricts freedom of ‎speech

Headline: "The [Palestinian] Supreme ‎Council for Media’s law ignites a conflict ‎between the [Palestinian] Journalists' ‎Syndicate and the PA"‎

‎"The ratification of the Palestinian Supreme ‎Council for Media’s law by the Palestinian ‎government and Palestinian President ‎Mahmoud Abbas has opened the door to an ‎argument between the [Palestinian] ‎Journalists’ Syndicate and a number of the ‎media institutions dealing with the ‎journalists’ issues concerning the law and ‎their opposition to the council, because of its ‎being officially subject to the PA and ‎presidential institutions. ‎
‎(The law was ratified by the PA government ‎on Dec. 15, 2015 and presented by PA ‎Chairman Abbas on Dec. 29, 2015 –Ed.)‎

Omar Nazzal, a member of the council of the ‎Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, said that ‎his union supports the idea of the ‎establishment of a supreme council for ‎media in the Palestinian areas, as in Arab ‎countries such as Morocco and Tunisia.‎

Nazzal noted to Donia Al-Watan that the idea ‎of a supreme council for media depends on ‎the liberation of the media outlets from the ‎hold and rule of the [PA] government, toward ‎the establishment of an independent civilian ‎council comprised of experts and institutions ‎from the civilian sector, and that this is what ‎appeared in the draft [of the law] that was ‎completed in 2013 together with ‎representatives of the syndicate. He ‎emphasized that the Palestinian government ‎made changes in the topic of the law that ‎was ratified without involving the syndicate ‎or any of the media institutions. These ‎changes fundamentally destroyed the idea, ‎because the [media] council was turned into ‎a government council (i.e., not an ‎independent council), simultaneously ‎subject to government and presidential ‎authority, and that this is a bad wording by ‎the [PA] Ministry of Communications, and ‎that is what the Journalists’ Syndicate ‎opposes.‎

He noted that the law includes many clauses ‎and topics that contradict the Palestinian ‎constitution, and that the law has ‎established a supreme council for media, but ‎did not abolish the [PA] Ministry of ‎Communications, so that at the moment ‎there are two sources of authority: the ‎ministry and the council.‎

He added: 'This law grants the supreme ‎council the authority to issue permits to ‎media outlets, and this is unacceptable, as ‎the Palestinian constitution guarantees that ‎all media outlets can work without requiring ‎permits, needing only to register and give ‎notice. Likewise, the law granted the council ‎the authority to cancel permits of media ‎outlets, and we oppose a situation in which ‎the council can cancel the permit of any ‎existing media outlet.'‎

Nazzal noted that the law includes many ‎ambiguous expressions, such as when it ‎discusses national interest, civilian and ‎popular unity and peace, [all of] which can ‎be interpreted in different ways, and this ‎threatens the media outlets that are ‎unaccepted and disliked (i.e., by the PA ‎government) and may cost them their ‎permits. ‎

He continued: 'The law talks about [the fact] ‎that the media outlets are subject to serving ‎the goals of the Palestinian people and the ‎general goals of the PA. This is essentially ‎unpaid work for the PA, and means that ‎these outlets are a tool in the hands of the ‎PA, which it can operate as it wishes.'"‎