On the World Press Freedom Day, PCHR and OHCHR Organize Honoring Ceremony Entitled Outstanding Journalists

Yesterday evening, 3 May 2010, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized a ceremony entitled "Distinguished Journalists" to honor 25 journalists, who were granted international awards in 2009 and 2010 for their works. The ceremony was attended by hundreds of journalists, representatives of media institutions and civil society organizations and public figures.

This initiative of honoring journalists came due to the belief of PCHR and OHCHR in the importance of the role played by Palestinian journalists under severe conditions to ensure showing the truth regarding what is happening in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), regardless of the risks of being targeted by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Such an initiative confirms the strategic and complementary relationship between human rights defenders and journalists, who work to document violations of human rights through their cameras.

The ceremony began by showing the distinguished journalistic works, which won international awards, including photographs, video clips, articles and features. After that, Jaber Weshah, Deputy Director of PCHR, delivered a speech, in which he highlighted that this ceremony constituted a confirmation of the correlation between press freedom and human rights, and between people struggling for the realization of the right to seek knowledge and people defending human rights. Weshah described Palestinian journalists as unknown soldiers working under hostile conditions, regardless of the risks surrounding them. He also stressed that they truly deserve respect and appreciation. Weshah further talked about IOF's prevention of international journalists from entering the Gaza Strip prior to the latest Israeli offensive, within the framework of IOF's efforts aiming at hiding their crimes and shield the crime scenes from the world, which failed due to the efforts of the Palestinian Journalists, who skillfully documented the crimes and violations perpetrated by IOF.

In her speech, Eva Tomic, Director of OHCHR in the OPT, said that working under conditions similar to the conditions under which the Palestinian journalists work had been considered a great challenge. She added that such challenges had increased under the continuity of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of violations of human rights, unwillingness to prosecute them and bringing them to trial, the instable political situation and unavailability of a unified political government in the OPT. In addition, the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip undermines the promotion of civil and political rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Tomic highly appreciated the Palestinian journalists' efforts as they had worked under such harsh conditions and helped in transferring stories during and after Operation Cast Lead to the public opinion at the national and international levels. In the conclusion of her speech, Tomic encouraged Palestinian journalists – not only on behalf of OHCHR and PCHR, but also on behalf of victims of violations of human rights – to continue to defend human rights issues through their reports and journalistic works.

In his speech on behalf of the honored Palestinian journalists, journalist Talal Abu Rahma expressed the journalists' thanks and appreciation for PCHR and OHCHR for organizing such a ceremony. Abu Rahma explained the harsh and deteriorating conditions of Palestinian journalists due to being targeted by IOF, pointing to dozens of journalists, who were killed, wounded or detained by IOF, under impunity enjoyed by the Israeli soldiers, which allows them to perpetrate more crimes without being prosecuted.

In conclusion, the honored journalists were awarded the honoring emblems. It should be noted that three of the honored journalists were from the West Bank and they could not enter the Gaza Strip to participate in the ceremony due to restrictions imposed by IOF on the freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip. It was decided that the bodies organizing the ceremony would take necessary measures to ensure delivering the honoring emblems to the three journalists in the West Bank within the few coming days.


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