Last updated on November 11th, 2018
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This is a direct statement from article 11 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Therefore, it should be expected that any nation or organisation that seeks international acknowledgement would strive to uphold basic human rights, but this has proven difficult as soon as any kind of war breaks out, with civil wars being the most notorious.
In this case both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the respective ruling entities of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were accused by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of violating the rights of Palestinian journalists. HRW issued a report that details a two-year study of nearly ninety cases of official interference with freedom of expression in the West Bank and Gaza.
Incidents include the detention of Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Fouad Jarada in Gaza by Hamas’ security forces in 2017 and the July 2017 imprisonment of journalist Amer Balousha under similar circumstances.
On the West bank, a Palestinian journalist who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons of personal safety says that the situation for journalists on the Gaza strip can’t even be compared to the one on the West Bank: “here on the West Bank the PA deals with critics of the government in more indirect ways like denying them the ability to ply their craft.”. But on the other side things seem more violent, invasive and direct: “Journalists in the Gaza Strip face charges of engaging in illegal activities, individual travel prohibitions and confiscation of news gathering equipment if they don’t follow Hamas guidelines on coverage and political opinion.”, says a Gaza strip-based reporter.
Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch Oar Shakir says that while there are differences in the ways Hamas and Fatah deal with freedom of expression in areas under their control, the underlying abuses are similar.
“Both engage in systematic arbitrary arrests of dissidents and critics including journalists, and their mistreatment of those in detention uses similar tactics such as positional torture.”, alluding on the PA’s detaining of five journalists on the West Bank in response to Fouad Jarada’s detention by Hamas.
Where there is conflict, there is less room for basic human rights it seems.