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IFJ mission starts visit with meetings in Ramallah and Nablus

(IFJ/IFEX) - 15 September 2010 - A mission of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) started yesterday a four-day visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories at the invitation of its affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS).

As well as meeting the newly elected leadership of the PJS, the aim of the mission, says the IFJ, is to investigate the continuing consequences of the Israeli occupation and the blockade of Gaza and East Jerusalem on the work of all journalists and media workers and its impact on their safety and identify actions to ameliorate the problems of freedom of movement of journalists in the region.

On its first day, the mission met PJS officials and their new leadership at their headquarters in Ramallah to discuss safety of journalists, and the action needed to improve their freedom of movement.

"It is unacceptable to the world community of journalists that Israeli soldiers continue to attack Palestinian journalists in total impunity," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "The PJS has monitored 60 cases of attacks in the last three months. This is getting out of control and must stop immediately. As the occupying power, Israeli civilian and military authorities must discipline and prosecute soldiers who are guilty of violence against journalists."

The mission heard cases of the immense obstacles to freedom of movement that Palestinian journalists continue to face daily while doing their job. Earlier in the day, the PJS and IFJ made statements condemning Israel's decision to ban Younes M'Jahed, IFJ senior vice president and president of the Moroccan Press Union, from entering the Occupied Palestinian Territories to participate in the work of the IFJ mission.
"The ban on the IFJ senior vice-president is testimony of the serious hurdles that journalists face daily in moving around chasing up their stories," said Boumelha. "The IFJ is ready to relaunch its campaign on freedom of movement to impress on the Israeli authorities of the necessity to guarantee that journalists are able to move freely to do they work and recognise the IFJ press card."

On its second day, members of the mission travelled to Nablus to meet Palestinian journalists working in the growing number of radio and TV stations which constitute the city's vibrant media. The mission heard details of the challenges they face, including their difficulties in protecting their transmitters and frequency constantly under threat from Israeli authorities as well as the exorbitant licensing tax demands by the Palestinian authorities. A vigorous campaign by the PJS has succeeded in the cancelling of the debts and setting up of fairer licence fees.

"We were pleased to see the extraordinary progress made by the new leadership of the union in their first six months, including their preparations to strengthen their union as the authoritative voice of journalists in Palestine," said Boumelha. "A great deal remains to be done to improve the professional status and working conditions of Palestinian journalists and confront the numerous threats and violations they continue to face daily."

The mission includes the IFJ President Jim Boumelha, IFJ Executive members Franco Siddi (General Secretary of the Italian Federazione Nazionale della Prensa Italiana) and Eva Stabell (Norwegian Norsk Journalistlag) and European Federation of Journalists Steering Committee member Androula Georgiadou (Union of Cyprus Journalists) and Monir Zaarour, IFJ Middle East and Arab World co-ordinator.

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