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MADA issues original study on online media and freedom of expression

(MADA/IFEX) - Ramallah, 15 August 2011- The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) released a study entitled: "The relationship between new media and freedom of expression - the Facebook model", which focuses on the increasing impact of Facebook on Palestinian society, and how this impacts freedom of expression in both the virtual and non-virtual world.

The study is the first of its kind in Palestine, prepared by journalist and international relations researcher Mahmoud Fatafteh, with supervision from Birzeit University Media Department Head Dr. Walid Alshurafah.

The study monitored the reality of freedom of opinion and expression in Palestine and the impact and expediency of new communication technologies in expressing the issues and concerns of Palestinian civil society. The study also researched a sample of Palestinian groups on Facebook to analyse their effect on the Palestinian situation and current issues, such as internal political division, freedom of expression and transparency.

The study found that new media contributes to the enhancement of freedom of expression but does not encourage dialogue between different cultures or promote respect for dissenting opinions. The study concluded that although sample groups agreed that access to social media increased freedom of expression, many expressed confusion about the correlation between social media and freedom of expression as a whole. In addition, results demonstrated that civil society organizations could not sufficiently reconcile traditional structures of operations and social media, thereby limiting their impact and effectiveness in social networking platforms.

Some recommendations from the report include:

1. A key necessity for the successful utilization of social networking sites is for Palestinian activists to embrace socio-political diversity and not repress dissenting opinions, in accordance with principles of democracy and freedom of opinion and expression.

2. Palestinian decision makers should work towards enhancing democracy and freedom of expression in order to guarantee the realisation of democratic rights in the society, in addition to establishing a code of conduct that promotes social responsibilities and distinguishes between press campaigns, press releases, and press information.

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