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Palestine journalists renew demands for freedom of movement as plans for upcoming congress face constraints imposed by Israeli authorities

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 17 September 2008 IFJ media release:

"Set Journalists Free" Says Palestinian Union as Plans for Congress Confront Israeli Obstacles

Journalists in Palestine have reiterated calls for reporters to be able to move freely in the region as they plan for a congress of journalists later this year. In a series of meetings called by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS), journalists renewed demands for freedom of movement in the face of bureaucratic and military constraints imposed by the Israeli authorities.

The journalists' syndicate plans a congress later this year bringing together journalists from Gaza and the West Bank, but Israeli roadblocks and denial of press accreditation to Palestinian reporters are posing serious problems.

The meetings of journalist leaders in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron on 11-13 September brought together 50 journalists and women activists across the West Bank. The internal Palestinian division and the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip prohibited the organizers from having similar meetings in the Gaza Strip. The meetings were used to develop a national programme of work, around Ethics and Women journalists' empowerment. The meetings made a new call for journalists to move freely and renewed pledges to strengthen ethical journalism and rights of women journalists in the media and in the union.

Palestinian journalists are unable to move freely to report or to visit colleagues or media offices in Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities do not make this available to Palestinian journalists despite numerous calls by the PJS and international organisations to allow journalists to circulate more freely.

A member of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Mrs. Najat Abu Baker, described women's activism in society and called on women to initiate change and become more active in political and social affairs. Palestinian women journalists are to be encouraged to join the union and put themselves forward for leadership posts during the upcoming congress.

In order to give a fresh start to the journalism trade-union movement, Naim Toubassi, President of the Palestine Journalists' Syndicate and a member of the IFJ Executive Committee, signed in March an agreement with the IFJ on plans to renew and relaunch the Syndicate over the coming months. During last week's meetings, the PJS leadership was determined more than ever to hold its congress by the end of this year.

"Politics must get out of the way so that journalists can organise themselves," said Nikos Megrelis, an IFJ Executive Committee member from Greece's Journalists' Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers, who was present at the meeting. "Palestinian journalists yearn for reform and renewal and the international journalists' community will support them every step of the way."

The IFJ calls on all Palestinian journalists throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip to give their full support to the PJS and to engage in the review and renewal of the PJS leadership.

Only by taking concrete steps towards a national congress, will the PJS open the door to a vigorous and open debate among journalists that can lead to the creation of a unified movement able to defend all journalists in the region," Megrelis said.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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