What Palestinian Public and Pundits Tell the Press

The LA Times picks up on a poll which finds that most Palestinians don't feel free to publicly criticize the Fatah and Hamas authorities they live under.

According to the study, by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR):

Findings also point out to a significant and continued deterioration in public perception of the level of freedoms enjoyed by citizens in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the split between these two areas in June 2007. For example, belief that citizens can criticize the authorities in the West Bank without fear retreated from 56% in September 2007 to 27% in this poll. Similarly a retreat occurred in the belief that citizens can criticize the authorities in the Gaza Strip without fear from 52% to 19% during the same period.

The Times also note the spillover effect on Palestinian press freedom:

Fear of criticizing the authority or reporting on something that would upset it prompted Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to exercise self censorship, which some organizations said limits creativity and hinders development of the Palestinian media.

Another "option" for Palestinians is to tell reporters what the ruling authorities want to hear. It's sad enough when the man on the street can't talk freely, but it's even more disturbing when more "talking heads" — the academics, politicians, journalists, activists presented by Big Media as being more authoritative — also don't tell the truth. Just yesterday, Memri flagged a clip of one such pundit, Al-Quds al-Arabi editor Abd Al-Bari Atwan, saying it's okay to say one thing in Arabic and another in English for Western audiences.

If his name rings a bell, it's because the London-based Atwan, who makes frequent appearances on BBC, CNN, and Sky News, once told Lebanese TV, "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight," which I'm sure caused no consternation in Ramallah or Gaza City.

It's not always possible to tell if a man on the street is telling you the truth, but reporters can and do mention the context: that people are afraid to speak the freely. Perhaps it's time to apply the same disclaimer to the MSM's regular go-to wonks from Fatahstan and Hamastan.

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