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Crisis of local television and radio stations discussed at MADA consultative meeting

(MADA/IFEX) - On 10 August 2010, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) held its monthly consultative meeting to discuss "the crisis of local, private radio and television stations, immediate and long term solutions". The meeting was attended by the director of the Ministry of Information's Radio and Television Department, Mohamed Abu Halawa, representatives of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and a group of independent journalists and workers at local stations.

MADA director Mousa Rimawi welcomed the attendees and talked about the conditions of radio and television stations. Rimawi stressed the important role of local media in calling for reconciliation, tolerance and dialogue, and spreading a culture of freedom of opinion and expression in Palestinian society. He also stressed that the existence of a large number of local radio and television stations is a positive phenomenon that characterises the Palestinian territories and enhances media diversity.

Mohamed Abu Halawa presented a detailed review of the conditions of radio and television stations since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. He also talked about the role of the Ministry of Information in supporting these stations and said that the ministry has not issued decisions to close any stations for professional reasons. He spoke in detail about the mechanisms for licensing and noted that the income of radio stations is much more than that of television stations, such that the number of radio stations that have paid their frequency fees is 55 out of 65 stations while for television stations it is 5 out of 25. Abu Halawa also stressed that the licensing terms for radio and television stations are simple and that it is not difficult to obtain them. He added that all past excesses against the stations were not related to the Ministry of Information and stressed the need for commitment on the part of the stations to adhere to the professional standards set by the ministry.

Journalist Ibrahim Al-Hussari reviewed the origins and evolution of local radio and television networks, and the apparent associated positive and negative points. He also stressed the importance and the need for upgrading to reach the true potential of these networks to disseminate their message. Al-Hussari added that the idea of the networks has helped to improve the infrastructure and the performance of workers in many local radio and television stations.

A member of the secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Montaser Hamdan, said that the syndicate must give special attention to the conditions of radio and television station workers, especially their salaries and employment contracts, as well as the need for respect for the rights of journalists and the existence of clear administrative and financial procedures.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the attendees recommended the following:

The need to complete the licensing procedures and correct the conditions of stations through the Ministry of Information, the reduction of the fees requested from the television stations, the enhancement of coordination between the local stations, raising of the professional level of workers and the quality of their programmes, adherence to standards of professionalism and objectivity in their work, enhancement of positive values and principles of democracy and freedom of expression, condemnation of all attacks against the stations and the importance of coordination between the Journalists Syndicate and the Ministry of Information. They also stressed the importance of the monthly meetings convened by MADA.

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