11 September 2019
International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, AM & PM Meetings

International Media Seminar Opens with Exploration of Challenges, Opportunities for Journalists Telling Human Stories from Occupied Palestinian Territory

ANKARA, 11 September — The 2019 International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East opened here today, with journalists, academics, diplomats and senior Government officials examining the crucial role of media and online activists in amplifying the voices of everyday Palestinians more than 50 years into the occupation.

Organized by the United Nations Department of Global Communications and Turkey’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Seminar’s first day featured two panel discussions focused, respectively, on the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the challenges facing reporters tasked with covering it.

Seda Pumpyanskaya, Director of the Strategic Communications Division in the Department of Global Communications, spoke on behalf of Under-Secretary-General Melissa Fleming, noting that the twenty-sixth Media Seminar stands as a reminder of the ongoing suffering of Palestinians .  Underlining the Department’s commitment to sensitizing public opinion on the issue, as well as promoting dialogue and understanding, she said the two-day event will ask participants to reflect on the latest trends, practices and media narratives relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Discussions will focus on Gaza, where clashes, an economic blockade and internal divisions have resulted in a deteriorated and fragile humanitarian situation.  Additional sessions will centre on the challenges facing media practitioners reporting on the ground, including limited access, censorship and even journalists’ fear for their lives.  Efforts to report stories about women in the Israel-Palestine conflict — including their struggles with social stigma, lack of education and basic rights — will also be addressed, she said, as will the role of “hashtag activism” in shaping the public opinion.

Aydan Karamanoğlu, Deputy Director General in Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in opening remarks that the Seminar will provide a chance to consider the long-standing conflict from a new perspective.  Recalling that the diverse people of the Middle East and North Africa have lived and flourished together for centuries, embracing their differences as a source of strength, he said today’s reality strays dramatically from that history.  Emphasizing that the Palestinian issue remains at the core of the region’s challenges, he pointed to the increasing pressure on Palestinians, with the Israel Defense Forces employing disproportionate force against civilians and Gaza’s residents still suffering under a cruel blockade.  Meanwhile, measures intended to change the demographic character of Jerusalem — including restrictions on Muslims visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque — pose serious concerns, he said.

“We are entitled to our own views, but we are not entitled to our own facts,” he asserted, noting that the parameters for peace negotiations have been laid out for decades.  Palestine refugees have a right to return — and the status of “refugee” is a right, not a bargaining tool.  Recalling that the scale of the challenges became evident as recently as 10 September, when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plan to annex parts of the Jordan Valley should he prevail in the upcoming election, he urged the international community not to turn a blind eye to such violations of international law.  Media members are among those central to building confidence between the parties and paving the way for a viable peace process, he said, adding that global news networks and social media tools provide real-time information and allow individuals to become more active participants in world affairs.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, in a message read out by Ms. Pumpyanskaya, that the goal of a peaceful and just solution to the Palestinian question — which can only be possible with two States living in peace and security — remains elusive.  The political, economic and humanitarian crises in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have reached alarming proportions, he emphasized, noting that nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza live under severe movement and access restrictions, mired in increasing poverty and unemployment and with limited access to health, education, water and electricity.  While the international community must act with speed and determination to address those needs, no amount of humanitarian or economic support will resolve the conflict, he said, stressing that the United Nations stands committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis in ending the conflict on the basis of international law, relevant resolutions and previous agreements.

Cheikh Niang (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, expressed alarm over the acceleration of Israel’s settlement construction and attacks against unarmed Palestinians.  Also voicing concern over escalating violence against journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said statistics from the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms show that attacks against Palestinian media workers rose by 60 per cent in 2018 to 584 violations of media freedoms.  Even amid those conditions, members of the media continue their work.  “You, the journalists, can contribute in many ways to creating a better future for the Palestinian people, including by giving voice to the voiceless,” he stressed, adding: “Your job is not an easy one.”

Urging all Governments, including the Palestinian authorities, to ensure that the media’s right to free opinion and expression are protected, he recalled that in July, two special rapporteurs on human rights called upon Israel to halt the deportation of a Palestinian photojournalist from Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, the United Nations Training Programme for Palestinian Journalists familiarized its almost 200 graduates with the work of the Organization and the question of Palestine.  Outlining other 2019 initiatives — including the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, to be held on 26 November, and the Committee’s robust social media presence — he said the proliferation of independent journalists and social media users “guarantees that the true story of what is taking place on the ground will be told”.

Throughout the day, speakers considered such themes as the region’s shifting political landscape, economic hardships facing Palestinians — particularly in Gaza — and the recent spike in violence, while highlighting the need to disseminate real-life human stories to media consumers around the globe.  During the morning session, panellist Tania Hary, Executive Director of the Israeli non-profit organization Gisha, said the man-made crisis in Gaza cannot be resolved simply by building water plants or providing aid or jobs — though all those are urgently needed.  Instead, what is needed most is hope and freedom.  Noting that 70 per cent of Gaza’s 2 million residents are young people, she warned that recent events — including the 2018 decision by the United States to cut off aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) — have evolved into a “perfect storm” of challenges facing Palestinians.  She added that the annexation plans announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will only exacerbate their isolation.

Striking a similar tone, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, declared:  “Our people are struggling, like all people living under occupation, for freedom, independence and dignity.”  While UNRWA should provide support so long as the occupation continues, more than just humanitarian support is needed, he emphasized.

Peter Mulrean, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York, outlined the psychosocial effects of the occupation on civilians.  Continuous home demolitions, detentions and human rights violations have led to a pervasive sense of fear, despair and hopelessness, which play out on both the individual and community levels, he said.  Describing those impacts as the greatest humanitarian challenge of all, he said UNRWA continues its work “because we have no choice”.  The scale of the Agency’s efforts in Gaza alone is massive, with 280,000 children in its schools, nearly 4 million patient visits per year in its clinics and a million people reliant on the food assistance it provides.  Decrying attempts to politicize those efforts, he cautioned against destroying institutions “unless you are damned sure” that something better will replace them.

During the afternoon discussion, panellists representing a range of news and media outlets shared their experiences in reporting from Gaza and the broader Occupied Palestinian Territory, shedding light on access restrictions, intimidation and physical attacks, the safety of journalists and the creeping role of self-censorship in some media markets.  Amira Hass, a long-time journalist and columnist for Haaretz, said the Israeli media are mostly uninterested in covering the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Describing her struggle to identify a vocabulary through which to adequately illustrate the dire and complex situation on the ground, she said such topics require many words to explain properly — space that journalists often lack.  She also cited difficulties in accessing sources, who rightly fear recriminations from the authorities, the challenge of reporting on a charged emotional issue and the difficulty of obtaining information from the Government of Israel.  In addition, Israeli groups monitor every detail of coverage on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which can be exhausting and intimidating to journalists.  And contrary to expectations, there is reluctance among Palestinian authorities, especially in Gaza, to share information with journalists wishing to cover the Palestine story.

On a similar point, several speakers — including Ian Black, a professor and former Middle East Editor of the The Guardian — voiced concern that the world has grown weary of years of news stories emerging from the Middle East, explaining that there is little appetite among news editors for stories that repeatedly revisit the same crises and conflicts.

The International Media Seminar will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 12 September.

Panel I

The Seminar opened with a panel discussion on the theme “The Humanitarian Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.  Moderated by Seda Pumpyanskaya, Director of the Strategic Communications Division in the United Nations Department of Global Communications, it featured four panellists:  Tania Hary, Executive Director, Gisha; Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer, State of Palestine; Korkut Güngen, Director General, Multilateral Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey; and Peter Mulrean, Director, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Representative Office, New York.

Ms. PUMPYANSKAYA said that after more than 70 years of conflict, the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza has degenerated into a political, social, economic and humanitarian quagmire.  Despite international attempts to find a viable solution, the conflict continues, and the humanitarian situation has deteriorated.  Opening the discussion, she asked panellists to elaborate on the factors that triggered the current crisis.

Ms. HARY said her group was founded in 2005, before Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and two years before Hamas took power there.  Emphasizing that human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis are not “the sad outcome of a lack of resolution to conflict” but rather intentional attempts to further the occupation, she said Israel controls Gaza by imposing serious restrictions on movement and access.  The man-made crisis must be viewed more broadly and cannot be resolved simply by building water plants or providing aid or jobs — though all those are urgently needed.  Instead, what is most needed is hope and freedom. 

Pointing out that 70 per cent of Gaza’s 2 million residents are young people, she urged participants to be honest about the causes of the current crisis.  Among those are Israel’s separation policy in Gaza and the “perfect storm” of events in recent years, including the United States decision to cut off aid to the territory.  In that context, she added that the annexation plans announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu will only exacerbate the Palestinians’ isolation.

Mr. MANSOUR agreed that the situation on the ground in Gaza is tragic and arises in large part from the long-standing economic blockade.  However, the isolation of those living elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is no less tragic.  “Our people are struggling, like all people living under occupation, for freedom, independence and dignity,” he stressed.  While UNRWA should provide support so long as the population continues to struggle against the occupation, he agreed that more than just humanitarian support is needed.

Noting that occupations are meant to end after a short time, he said that after decades, an occupation becomes colonialism.  Recalling the 1975 establishment of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, he said the General Assembly also mandated the establishment of a special information programme aimed at educating journalists and the global public about the reality faced by Palestinians living under occupation.  Today, the Committee and the Department of Global Communications work in tandem to prevent the question of Palestine from drifting into obscurity and to maximize pressure on those who stand in the way of Palestinians’ rights.

Mr. GÜNGEN said that while acute humanitarian issues do arise occasionally, the question being discussed today is unfortunately a chronic one.  “One has to ask:  why is it getting worse?”  While humanitarian actors including United Nations agencies and non-governmental groups are active in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he stressed that “at the end of the day, there is an occupation”.  Describing UNRWA — established in 1949 — as a living testimony to the longstanding nature of the crisis, he said its challenges are not limited to Gaza or the West Bank but are also felt in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, where Palestine refugees live.

Citing chronic infrastructure, health, education and other challenges, he agreed with other panellists that their underlying cause is the occupation.  While humanitarian assistance is critical and indeed part of the solution, he warned that “one cannot continue trying to provide better lives […] under these circumstances”.  Turning Israel’s recent announcement concerning the impending annexation of parts of the Jordan Valley, he said such an action — along with the United States 2018 decisions to move its embassy to Jerusalem and cut funding to UNRWA — will only exacerbate the situation.

Mr. MULREAN emphasized the need to view the dramatic circumstances in Gaza and across the Occupied Palestinian Territory through the lens of those impacted on the ground.  While the situation is longstanding, it feels like it is worsening, he said, citing the Great March of Return and associated violence at the Gaza border fence.  Living under the occupation has a major psychosocial effect on the people experiencing home demolitions, detentions and rights violations, with a pervasive sense of fear, despair and hopelessness playing out on both the individual and community levels.  Describing those dynamics as the greatest humanitarian challenge of all, he said UNRWA continues its work “because we have no choice”.  The scale of the Agency’s efforts in Gaza alone is massive, with 280,000 children in Agency schools, nearly 4 million patient visits per year in its clinics and a million people relying on the food assistance it provides.

Warning against attempts to politicize UNRWA’s work, he said its workers adhere to the core humanitarian principle of neutrality.  “We go to extraordinary lengths to reflect United Nations values,” he stressed, noting that politicization has increased sharply since the United States decision to defund the Agency.  While it is every country’s sovereign right to do as it chooses with its funds, he rejected the narrative that underpinned those cuts — namely, placing blame on UNRWA.  Citing a grave new threat — calls to dismantle UNRWA — he recalled the Secretary-General’s recent characterization of the Agency as a United Nations success and warned against destroying institutions “unless you are damned sure” that something better will replace them.

Ms. PUMPYANSKAYA then asked the panellists what should be done to improve the situation on the ground.

Mr. GÜNGEN pledged that Turkey will continue to support Palestinians, including by raising the issue in international forums.  Turkey recently helped to pioneer two United Nations resolutions — including one on the protection of Palestinian civilians — and provides support to UNRWA and other intergovernmental agencies.

Mr. MANSOUR said the international community has demonstrated massive political support for UNRWA in the face of efforts to dismantle it.  What is immediately needed is to continue to defend the Agency politically, to succeed in renewing its mandate in the General Assembly and to keep funding its critical work.  As Israel attempts to gain the political upper hand by seeking to take the issues of refugees and Jerusalem off the negotiating table, and the United States engages in financial blackmail, he called on the international community to fund UNRWA and persuade capitals not to move their embassies to Jerusalem.  The international consensus in favour of a two-State solution — evident in both the Security Council and the General Assembly — must be preserved, he stressed, adding that the humanitarian and political dimensions of the crisis cannot be separated.

Ms. HARY said that surviving and thriving is a revolutionary act in the context of Israel’s attempts to empty out the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Warning participants not to be distracted by that strategic approach, she said Israel purposely keeps the situation in Gaza from boiling over in order to maintain the occupation.  She urged Member States not to take at face value the many restrictions currently in place.

Mr. MULREAN emphasized that values, laws and institutions — all of which are now under attack — still matter.  The multilateral world is going through a challenging period in which its fundamentals are under threat.  Stressing that UNRWA does not exist “to make us feel noble” but rather preserve a world where it is easier for everyone to live, he said its work cannot be considered an á la carte menu.  Humanitarian work must be preserved even when it is uncomfortable.  No one, most of all Palestine refugees, wants UNRWA to exist for another 70 years; however, for the moment, that 70-year-old investment must be safeguarded.

The participants were asked to provide additional thoughts on those themes.

Mr. MANSOUR agreed that UNRWA is one of the United Nations success stories.  In the political arena, he declared that “the era of Netanyahu must come to an end” and expressed hope that a new Government coalition can create some of the conditions needed to push the peace process forward.

Ms. HARY urged participants to view the situation through the lens of young people, who are often viewed as a threat rather than valued for their vast potential.  In that context, she advocated for more support for educational exchange programmes and other platforms for youth dialogue.

Mr. MULREAN, touching on the same topic, said UNRWA schools teach children — including talented student parliamentarians — to advocate for themselves and their communities.  Such efforts demonstrate the Agency’s practical value and provide a great source of hope against the backdrop of many challenges, he said.

Mr. GÜNGEN said descriptions of frustration in Gaza should not be interpreted as submission.  Similarly, Israel’s upcoming election should not distract from its systematic attempts to disregard humanitarian law.

The floor was then opened for questions and comments.

TUR GUT ALP BOYRAZ, Middle East and North Africa News Editor at Anadolu Agency, asked Mr. Mansour to elaborate on the possibility that Israel will annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, including what such a decision will mean on the ground and any practical steps the Palestinian Authority plans to take in such a scenario.

Mr. MANSOUR responded by recalling that the Security Council condemned similar unilateral moves in the 1980s, noting that more recently, resolution 2334 (2016) rejected such actions as “null and void”.  While similar resolutions are expected to be adopted should the announced annexation take place, it is to be hoped that the forces attempting to pursue that irresponsible course will not prevail.

AHMED SHIHAB-ELDIN, a senior correspondent for AJ+, cited reports about Israel’s attempts to limit the number of calories and medical supplies entering the Occupied Palestinian Territory and asked panellists how Israelis can justify such actions.  “People tend to be complicit in the actions of their Governments, whether they’re aware of it or not,” he pointed out.

Ms. HARY replied that a recent poll showed that about two thirds of Israelis are aware of the Gaza crisis, but the majority feel they are not responsible for it.  A 2010 strategic public relations shift pushed for open conversation about those issues but also sought to distance Israel, she said, underlining the need for accountability and more explicit recognition of its role in the man-made crisis.

A university student from Turkey recalled that the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) helped to successfully advocate for two General Assembly resolutions, including one on the protection of Palestinian civilians, but noted that the effect is still not evident on the ground.  She asked what can be done to increase the effectiveness of such agreements.

Mr. MANSOUR recalled that the General Assembly requested and later received recommendations from the Secretary-General on practical means to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians.  More must now be done to implement those recommendations, including by funding them, he said.

Mr. GÜNGEN added that the two resolutions are intended to consolidate international support and solidarity for the Palestinian people while sending a strong message to Israel and the United States.

Mr. MULREAN, while expressing the futility of passing numerous resolutions without implementing them, also warned that failure to adopt such agreements can send a dangerous message that the United Nations is disengaged from a certain issue.  Multilateral action — alongside efforts by media outlets and other actors — must therefore keep the spotlight on the crisis and generate momentum.

Ms. HARY, responding to brief closing questions, cited her organization’s legal battle to support a family’s right of residency in the West Bank as an example that success is indeed possible.

Mr. MANSOUR, asked whether the humanitarian crisis can be attributed in part to divisions among Palestinians, said that such rifts undoubtedly play a negative role, while expressing hope that “this dark chapter” in Palestinian history will end as quickly as possible.

Mr. GÜNGEN, responding to a question about support for humanitarian action, agreed that more should be done in that crucial area, with sustainable and predictable funding provided.

Mr. MULREAN, asked whether UNRWA is still facing a funding shortfall, said it needs $120 million, or 10 per cent of its annual budget, to carry out its work until the end of 2019.  The Agency is now working to diversify its financing sources and seeks to obtain a commitment that its funding is a common international responsibility, he added.

Panel II

Moderating the day’s second panel discussion, titled “The situation in Gaza:  Ongoing Challenges for Media Reporting”, was Mr. Niang (Senegal), Committee Chair.  It featured presentations by Majd Al Waheidi, researcher and former reporter for The New York Times in Gaza; Ian Black, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Middle East Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, and former Middle East Editor of The Guardian; Amira Hass, journalist and columnist for Haaretz; and Merve Şebnem Oruç, columnist for Daily Sabah.

Mr. NIANG (Senegal), noting that media outlets are often criticized for providing insufficient or inaccurate information when reporting from Gaza, asked the reason for that and who is to blame.

Ms. WAHEIDI said those questions must be considered in the context of the impossible situation in which journalists live and work.  Stressing that there are no civil liberties or political rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she said local journalists — who often serve as sources of information for foreign reporters — have been detained, targeted and killed.  Both traditional and non-traditional journalists must work together to present the facts, she said, noting that the larger question is about their ability to report without being shot and killed by the Israel Defense Forces.

Mr. BLACK said bias often results from the toxicity of the conflict and the extremely difficult conditions in which reporters operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  While foreign journalists are largely safe there, Palestinian reporters face greater challenges, he said.  Citing intense scrutiny and pressure from media watchdogs on both sides, he added that small reporting errors that have no real consequences can have a serious impact on a journalist’s credibility for many years.

Ms. HASS said that Israel’s media are mostly uninterested in covering the Occupied Palestinian Territory, adopting instead the rhetoric and vocabulary of politicians.  Describing her own struggle to identify a new vocabulary through which to illustrate the situation on the ground, she said such complex topics require many words to explain properly — space that journalists often lack.  She also cited difficulties in accessing sources, who rightly fear recrimination from the authorities, the challenge of reporting on a charged emotional issue and difficulties in obtaining information both from Israel’s Government and from Palestinian authorities, especially in Gaza.

Ms. ORUÇ described her time spent with friends in the Occupied Palestinian Territory several years ago, when she was able to see the situation with her own eyes.  Despite having procured a tourist visa, Israeli authorities repeatedly approached her using subtle but persistent intimidation tactics, she said, adding they intimidate the broader Palestinian population through spying, false news, threats and secret information gathering.

Mr. NIANG (Senegal) then asked what can be done to safeguard journalists reporting from Gaza, and who is responsible for those protections.

Ms. HASS replied that the onus is greater on Israeli journalists than on Palestinian reporters, because the former enjoy greater overall security.  However, journalists from all backgrounds face the same threats from explosions and air strikes, she pointed out, stressing that they all need protection.

Ms. ORUÇ said journalists from different countries work from different business models, but all face threats to a certain extent.  The question is more about safety and threats to life than about State criticism, she said, adding that female journalists face more risks at the front lines than their male counterparts.

Mr. BLACK shared his experience of watching history unfold in Gaza during the 1980s, when journalists of all backgrounds were largely able freely to operate there.  Noting that Israeli journalists have not been allowed to enter Gaza since 2006, he said foreign correspondents and Palestinians working for foreign outlets today also operate under serious restrictions, including the repression of Hamas.

Ms. WAHEIDI spotlighted the struggles of journalists caught between criticisms by various Palestinian factions.  “Your work becomes a war,” she said, urging Palestinian reporters working in Gaza to listen, remain open and stay committed to their work.

Ms. ORUÇ, asked to provide additional thoughts, said the Palestinian cause is important to people across Turkey’s political spectrum, but there has been a recent shift in which fewer stories are reported out of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, due perhaps to the growing chaos and conflict across the broader region.

Mr. BLACK, echoing some of those sentiments, noted that a certain fatigue has set in across global media outlets regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, and there is little appetite among news editors for stories that revisit the same crises and conflicts again and again.

The floor was then opened for questions and comments.

ALI GHAITH, a contributor to the independent global media platform OpenDemocracy, asked why Ms. Hass believes Israel’s Government has given her so much space to report freely over the course of her career, pointing out that her work has great potential to spark structural change.

Ms. HASS said that whereas the Government does not restrict her reporting, no structural change is possible because the Israeli public still feel they have a “duty to know”.  To illustrate that point, she shared an anecdote about a Palestinian farmer whom she assisted in small ways — given her status as an Israeli journalist — but whose broader life she was unable to impact.

Mr. SHIHAB-ELDIN, who also participated in the morning session, recalled that in his previous experience with the Huffington Post, editors questioned his engagement with young Palestinian journalists.  “Censorship is alive and well,” he said, emphasizing that many outlets will not touch the “politically contentious” conflict.  Concerning physical attacks against journalists, he asked how firing live ammunition at unarmed people can ever be justified as an act of restraint.  He also asked how to counteract skewed editorial framing that appears in so many news stories about the conflict.

Ms. HASS responded by stating that the main challenge — to which she has no solution — lies in making reporters and sources less afraid.  “We have to be 200 per cent accurate and without slogans,” she said, stressing the special responsibility journalists bear in reporting on the conflict.

Mr. BLACK underlined the asymmetrical nature of the situation, underlining the fact that it is not a conflict between equals.

Ms. ORUÇ spotlighted the increasingly open relations between Israel and other countries across the Middle East, noting that the rise of Hamas has led some Governments to “whitewash” Israel’s actions, including through media outlets.

ANAT SARAGUSTI, a filmmaker, book editor, freelance journalist and writer, agreed that the world is growing weary of the Middle East and its conflicts.  She also agreed with Ms. Hass that finding adequate language to reflect decades of systemic challenges is an extremely difficult task.  Recalling her time as a commercial television editor in Israel, she said Palestinians who appear on such outlets often feel pressure to represent the entire cause of their people, which leads to the emergence of clichés and the appearance of tokenism.

ORLY NOY, editor at Local Call and a contributor to +972 Magazine, asked Mr. Black to elaborate on the role of self-censorship in Western media outlets.  While people are widely aware of the media bias in Israel, journalists elsewhere may also be shifting their coverage for fear of being painted as anti-Semitic, she said.

Mr. BOYRAZ, also a participant in the morning session, raised issues relating to the Knesset and Israel’s claims to be a democratic country.  He also asked the panellists to consider new restrictions imposed on journalists by Hamas.

Mr. BLACK responded by stating that he does not believe The Guardian was ever involved in self-censorship.  Underlining that criticizing Israel’s Government is not the same as anti-Semitism, he noted that such accusations are nevertheless appearing more frequently in both the British press and politics.

Ms. HASS said Israeli groups monitor every detail of coverage of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which can be exhausting and intimidating to journalists.  Describing the spy tactics used by Israel’s Government and Hamas against non-governmental groups, she said journalists increasingly face the same threats.

Ms. WAHEIDI said she once covered the story of a young Palestinian man shot by Egyptian soldiers in 2015 while crossing the border, who died after failing to gain access to medical care.  She described attacks against journalists, including intentionally wounding them by shooting at their legs, as symbolic actions against press freedom.

Mr. MANSOUR urged the panellists to continue to pursue their work.  “We need you to keep reporting in spite of all the difficulties,” he said, emphasizing that their stories must be told.

For information media. Not an official record.