Director-General Voices Grave Concern About Press Freedom In The Autonomous Palestinian TerritoriesParis - UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, on a visit to Brazil, today expressed grave concern over the recent measures taken against the Voice of Palestine, radio station of the Palestinian National Authority, and its television broadcaster in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Mr Matsuura declared: “I am gravely concerned by recent violations of press freedom in the region. I shall continue supporting freedom of expression and its corollary freedom of the press, throughout the world, wherever they may be endangered. I cannot accept that media and journalists be used as targets in armed conflicts. UNESCO is strongly committed to the defence of freedom of speech, and the independence and pluralism of the media, enshrined in our Constitution which promotes ‘the free flow of ideasby word and image’.”
The measures that gave rise to Mr Matsuura’s concern include the confiscation and destruction of broadcasting equipment. There is also concern about the government of Israel’s policy of refusing to renew the press cards of Palestinian journalists, many of whom work for foreign media organizations, preventing them from reporting about events in the West Bank and Gaza.
UNESCO has been providing assistance in capacity building and provision of infrastructure and facilities to the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and to the WAFA news agency. In 1998, UNESCO helped create the Israeli/Palestinian Media Forum (IPMF) whose aim is to forge a spirit of professional solidarity, encourage professional exchanges, and enhance professional standards in reporting on situations, events and issues of common concern or interest. Although the Forum has been severely handicapped by the rise in violence, Mr Matsuura pledged to continue supporting its activities.