UNESCO organizes meetings between Israeli and Palestinian journalistsSixteen senior media professionals from Israel and the Palestinian territories have agreed on the need to be more sensitive in their reporting about one another’s side, and welcomed the idea of giving editorial space to each other in their respective media. At the close of a two-day meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, they further agreed to meet again, to remain in contact and to visit each other’s territories.
The meeting of seven Palestinian and seven Israeli media professionals, as well as two working for Arab-language publications in Israel, was opened on December 17 by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura who said its purpose was to “promote freedom of expression and at the same time to promote dialogue, respect and tolerance.”
Mr Matsuura re-affirmed the Organization’s belief in “a process of serious, open, frank and continuous dialogue” as crucial to bridging differences and moving towards mutual understanding, trust and cooperation. “And who better than you - the media professionals, the editors, journalists and publishers, in short, the information providers - can lead this dialogue?” the Director-General asked.
Many points of view were raised in the debate, reflecting differences within each camp, as well as between them. At its close, the participants expressed a professional interest in maintaining contact to be able to exchange and check information when working on stories concerning each other’s side, and concurred on the need to combat stereotyping, and to give fuller coverage of each other’s lives by including reports about cultural events, for example.
They also said they wanted to organize trips to Gaza and to the West Bank for Israeli journalists, and trips to Israel for Palestinian journalists, whose mobility is limited by current events. The media professionals furthermore agreed to meet again under the auspices of UNESCO and to set up an electronic forum to maintain contact.
UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector has set up several initiatives designed to contribute to the development of pluralistic Palestinian media and promote dialogue, and freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories, but implementation has been limited by violence and conflict. “We strongly hope,” Mr Matsuura declared on Wednesday, “that the time has now come to again increase the level of our activities.”
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Shirin Ebadi of Iran, who was at UNESCO on Wednesday, accepted the participants’ invitation and came to the opening of their meeting. “The peoples of the world want peace,” she said, “and it is my conviction that their will will prevail.”