Over 80 percent of Palestinian journalists practice self-censorship in their reporting, according to a study released Thursday by a Palestinian media rights group.
“Self-censorship negatively affects the freedom of expression and the professional level of the Palestinian media which already faces many obstacles,” the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms General Director Mousa Rimawi said at a meeting on how self-censorship effects Palestinian freedom of expression.
Only 19% of Palestinian journalists surveyed said they “do not practice any kind of censorship in their work, and 68% said that either they or their colleagues had some of their materials “banned from publication” at some point.
According to Rimawi, self-censorship by Palestinian journalists has its roots in Israeli censorship prior to the Oslo Accords, particularly during the First Intifada, and it “escalated concretely and dangerously after the Palestinian division in 2007” when journalists and citizens witnessed increased restrictions against freedom of expression in the Palestinian territories.
He added that self-censorship is also related to societal fears and concerns that media outlets either will not publish or will edit out material about certain subjects.
Media censorship was an issue during and after the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas over the summer, when Israel accused the foreign press of failing to report on Hamas tactics, such as firing rockets from civilian centers, out of fear of reprisals by Hamas.
In mid August, Hamas acknowledged that it strong-armed journalists in Gaza into a reporting style that suited its narrative, keeping many under surveillance and kicking out of the territory those who sought to film the launching of rockets at Israel.
The Times of Israel confirmed several incidents in which journalists were questioned and threatened. These included cases involving photographers who had taken pictures of Hamas operatives in compromising circumstances — gunmen preparing to shoot rockets from within civilian structures, and/or fighting in civilian clothing — and who were then approached by Hamas men, bullied and had their equipment taken away. Another case involving a French reporter was initially reported by the journalist involved, but the account was subsequently removed from the Internet.
Some also accused NBC of self-censorship after it pulled Ayman Mohyeldin from Gaza after he witnessed the death of four Gazan children in an Israeli airstrike and seemingly questioned the US State Department’s characterization that Hamas was at fault for their deaths because it did not agree to a ceasefire.
NBC said Mohyeldin was pulled for security reasons ahead of a possible Israeli ground assault and later returned him to Gaza.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.