ًWest Bank and Gaza
The undersigned CSOs examined the draft of decree-law No. (….) of the year 2023 regulating publication, press, and media, that is being secretly in prepared. It's ironic that the government and the Ministry of Information are attempting to pass legislation regulating copyrights, media, and the press, and yet they're doing so behind closed doors, without any public input or consultation with the media, despite being those most affected by its provisions.
The undersigned parties have noted that this proposed legislation contains provisions that constitute clear violations of the international standards and principles of the legislation regulating media and press freedoms, as set forth in international covenants and conventions, including those that Palestine has signed and is bound by. In addition, some of the provisions in this draft violate the principles enshrined in the amended Palestinian Basic Law regarding the rights and freedoms of the media and the freedom of expression.
The main violations are as follows:
– It contravenes international standards, in particular the "Three-Part Test," which assesses the legality of any limitations or interferences with the freedom of expression, keeping in mind that the aforementioned test is typically stringent in order to promote public freedoms. The main tenet of this test is that no restriction or term should jeopardize or diminish the essence of the right, which requires that it be clear and leave no room for interpretation; pursue a legitimate aim; and be necessary in a democratic society. Accordingly, an examination of this decree reveals a great deal of ambiguous terms enabling the executive authority's discretionary powers to restrict media freedoms and prosecute and punish opinion-makers. Examples of these terms are (National security / The historical Palestinian narrative / Disruption of international relations / Public morals and ethics).
– It seeks to bolster the executive authority’s control, represented by the Ministry of Information and the security institution, over the media, press, and research institutions by requiring them to obtain approvals and work permits to carry out work, under the risk of criminal prosecution. This is contrary to the "notification" method used in democratic societies, which states that notifying the appropriate authorities of one's intention to exercise the "constitutional right" to establish media outlets and engage in media and journalistic activities is sufficient.
– It authorizes the executive authority to issue press cards to Palestinian and international journalists and media personnel. This is a grave violation of the freedoms of assembly and association, and it diminishes the role of the Journalists' Syndicates. In addition, it allows the security services to interfere with the accreditation, work, and freedom of Palestinian journalists.
– It places the research and studies institutes under the unwarranted supervision of the executive authority, specifically with regard to the research, studies, and public opinion centers. This restricts and limits the ability and freedom of CSOs to conduct research and gather general information in order to exercise their constitutional right to participate, criticize, and hold accountable those responsible for setting public policies and handling public funds and affairs.
– It allows the executive authority to meddle with the work of private businesses that invest in media outlets by requiring prior approval and control of their capital and funding sources, as well as requiring prior approval of grants, donations, and funds supplied to media outlets. This violates the freedom of economic activity guaranteed by the Basic Law and enables the executive authority to paralyze media organizations and seize control over them by monitoring their work and requiring prior funding approval.
– It allows the executive to suspend or completely halt all operations of a media organization, in violation of paragraph (3) of Article (27) of the amended Basic Law, which states: "Censorship of the media shall be prohibited. No warning, suspension, confiscation, cancellation or restriction shall be imposed upon the media except by law, and pursuant to a judicial ruling."
Based on the abovementioned, the signatories emphasize the gravity of this proposed legislation regarding freedom of expression and media freedoms. In addition, they emphasize that this type of legislation reflects poorly on the Palestinian cause and the image of Palestine, and the extent to which it is regarded as a democratic, civilized state that adheres to the international agreements, charters, and treaties that it has signed, thereby affecting its quest for freedom and international recognition.
Thus, the signatories declare that they completely reject this proposed legislation and that they will use every available legal and constitutional mechanism to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to not issue it.
Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling
MADA – Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Hurryyat – Center for the Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD)
AMAN – Coalition for Accountability and Integrity
MIFTAH – Palestinian Initiative for Deepening Global Dialogue and Democracy
The Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA)
The Popular Art Centre
A.M. Qattan Foundation
Women’s Studies Centre
Bisan Center for Research and Development
The Media Coalition for Freedoms and Social Justice
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Sharek Youth Forum
Teacher Creativity Center
SHAMS - Human Rights and Democracy Media Center
Al Marsad – Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor
MUSAWA – The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession
ISTIQLAL – The Civil Commission for the independence of Judiciary and Rule of Law