Statement by Ms. Sahar Salem before the 4th Committee on agenda item (58): Questions relating to information, UNGA 70th Session, 27 October 2015:

Mr. Chair,

At the outset, I extend Palestine’s congratulations to you on your assumption of the Chair of this Committee, as well as to the distinguished Bureau members. We have full confidence in your ability to efficiently steer its work to success.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information for her valuable efforts and for the informative, comprehensive statement to the Committee.

Before proceeding, I wish to affirm that my delegation aligns itself with the important statement made by South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Mr. Chair,

The delegation of the State of Palestine reaffirms its appreciation for the commendable efforts exerted in implementation of the Department of Public Information’s many important programs, including the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, which tangibly contributes to raising international awareness of the question of Palestine, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the efforts for a just, lasting and peaceful settlement that brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967 and fulfills the rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and independence.

We highly commend the Department of Public Information, especially the Palestine Section, for carrying out several activities in connection with this program, including organization of the annual International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, the latest of which was held in Astana, Kazakhstan in May 2015. We also commend DPI for its valuable work on the permanent exhibit on the Question of Palestine at UN Headquarters in New York, as well as its activities in connection with the annual commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  DPI’s provision of assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development through the annual training program for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, must also be commended. This valuable training opportunity effectively contributes to the development and strengthening of the media skills and abilities of those practitioners privileged to be selected.

We regret that highly qualified Palestinian media practitioner from the Gaza Strip had to be excluded from the program’s intake for this year because of the ongoing Israeli blockade on our people in the Gaza Strip, which is a gross measure of collective punishment, violating their rights, isolating them and depriving them of opportunities for education and development among many other deprivations.

Mr. Chair,

The situation of media practitioners in Palestine is one of major concern.  Israeli occupying forces continue to systematically and deliberately target Palestinian and foreign journalists and media institutions to prevent them from conveying the grim reality about Israel’s illegal, aggressive and destructive policies and practices against the defenseless Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Freedom of press continues to be suppressed by Israel, the occupying Power, through ongoing arrests and detentions and use of excessive force against Palestinian and foreign journalists and photographers, particularly those covering peaceful civilian demonstrations against the illegitimate Israeli occupation, the colonization of the Palestinian land, the inhumane treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons, and incursions by the Israeli occupying forces and terror by Israeli settler militias.

Israeli violations of press freedoms include assaults, killings, injuries, destruction of media institutions, arrest of journalists and using the press as human shields. In this regard, my delegation would like to share just two recent examples of this deadly Israeli policy against journalists. On 25 September this year, two AFP journalists, Andrea Bernardi and Abbas Momani were assaulted by Israeli soldiers at the time both journalists were wearing body armor clearly marked “Press”. The journalists were covering a demonstration in Beit Furik near Nablus when Israeli soldiers destroyed and seized their equipment. The incident was filmed and posted online. The video shows the Italian journalist, Andrea Bernardi, was thrown to the ground and struck with a weapon, suffering bruised ribs and an injury under the eye. Israeli soldiers also smashed their video camera and stills camera and took away another camera and a mobile phone. Earlier this month, a woman reporter from East Jerusalem, Hana Mahameed, also wearing a jacket clearly marked “press”, was hit in the face with stun grenade fired by Israeli occupying forces as she covered a Palestinian demonstration in East Jerusalem. Bravely, Ms. Mahameed returned to air later with bandages covering her burned face. This incident was also caught by a video and widely shared on social media.

Since just the start of this month, Israeli occupying forces have committed at least 39 violations against journalists (35 in the West Bank including East Jerusalem and 4 in the Gaza Strip). A large number of journalists were severely injured as a result of the IOF shooting live and rubber-coated steel bullets. As is well known, last year, Israel deliberately targeted journalists during its military aggression on the Gaza Strip, resulting in the killing of at least 17 journalists in Israeli airstrikes in gross breach to international humanitarian law, which regards journalists and press staff as protected persons during armed conflicts.

In this regard, the Palestinian leadership utterly rejects any violation of press privilege. We reaffirm our commitment to the international law particularly in ensuring privileges, to which journalists are entitled, are not misused in accordance to international humanitarian law.

Mr. Chair,

We reiterate our call to this distinguished Committee and international organizations concerned with journalists’ rights and freedom of the press to step up their efforts to protect Palestinian and foreign journalists and to demand a halt to Israel’s violations of international law. We call for respect, inter alia, of General Assembly resolution 68/163 and Security Council resolution 2222, which provide for the protection of journalists and ending impunity for crimes against them. In Palestine, this respect is essential to ensure that they are able to work without repressive Israeli censorship and restrictions and the threat of military force and settler terror.

In previous statements before the Committee on Information, we have emphasized the importance of the undertaking by DPI of the activities requested by the General Assembly in relevant resolutions, including the organization and promotion of fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. We hope that these activities will be soon be undertaken with sufficient funding and staff to enable full implementation of DPI’s mandate vis-à-vis the Question of Palestine.

Mr. Chair,

Freedom of the press, telecommunications and information technology are considered important aspects in the State of Palestine as they play a vital role in the development process.  Serious efforts are being exerted in this regard by the Palestinian Government, despite Israeli control of and restriction of the communications sector in Palestine, including the Palestinian frequency spectrum, which is depriving our people of the right to direct access to communications and broadcasting services and information technology. In the ongoing effort to strengthen our State institutions, with the support of the international community, the Palestinian leadership is working to promote freedom of expression and build communications and information technology networks to reach our people everywhere in the State of Palestine and help them overcome the geographical and physical impediments to normal life and development caused by the occupying Power and its illegal settlements, annexation Wall, and suffocating sieges and movement restrictions that are central to the illegal Israeli occupation’s control of the Palestinian civilian population.

In closing, we reaffirm the importance of the DPI’s Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine and its instrumental role in fostering support for the regional and international efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole, efforts that are more urgent than ever at this critical juncture. In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to continue the peaceful and legal efforts to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, to ensure justice and the achievement of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including to freedom and independence in their State of Palestine on the basis of 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and its admission as a full member of the United Nations to take its rightful place among the community of nations.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.