IFJ says it won't 'intervene in internal differences' of Palestinian journalists union

IFJ says it won't 'intervene in internal differences' of Palestinian journalists union
Pradalié's visit came a few days after the Palestinian journalists' syndicate elected a new board of directors, amidst contestation of the elections legitimacy by hundreds of journalists.
5 min read
West Bank
31 May, 2023
President of the IFJ, Dominique Pradalié, visited the occupied West Bank last week. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

The International Federation of Journalists "supports Palestinian journalists and the Palestinian journalists syndicate' demands of protection, fair wages and better work conditions," the IFJ's president, Dominique Pradalié, told The New Arab.

Pradalié commemorated in Jenin last week the first anniversary of the assassination by Israeli forces of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and visited the site in which Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces.

Pradalié's visit came a few days after the Palestinian journalists' syndicate elected a new board of directors, amidst contestation of the election's legitimacy by hundreds of journalists.

"The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in some 1580 countries," said Pradalié. "It is impossible for the IFJ to be aware of internal differences in each national journalists union, as they are independent."

"It is normal for a union organisation to have internal differences and unsatisfied members, who should make their voices heard through their union," Pradalié pointed out.

"If the unsatisfied are not members of the union organisation, they then need to enter the organisation first, so that they can have their voices heard," she added.

Palestinian journalists contesting the latest Palestinian journalists' syndicate elections, grouped under the name of 'Independent Journalists Bloc', had won the second largest representation in the syndicate at the previous election in 2012.

"We boycotted the latest elections because they were held under the new internal constitution of the union, which was changed unlawfully," Naela Khalil, speaking for the Independent bloc, told TNA.

"In March, the syndicate direction board held a general conference that passed the amendments on the syndicate's constitution in 40 minutes, surpassing all due procedures," said Khalil.

"The amendments allowed for all workers in government-run media outlets, even if they are not journalists, to join the union automatically, placing the syndicate under the control of a majority with the same political affiliation, forcing the rest of journalists to group according to political affiliation too, and leaving no space for independent, non-political journalists like us," she continued.

"This new board of directors wasn't elected, but rather chosen in consensus out of a single list," pointed out Khalil. "We tried to convey this picture to the IFJ in an official letter on behalf of the independent journalist's bloc and in a meeting with the IFJ president during her visit to Ramallah." 

"Pradalié seemed not to be aware of the details of this internal situation, nor of the fact that Palestinian journalists lack the basic labour protection, employment security, fair wages, health security and professional development," stressed Khalil. "We can't advocate for these rights when the only union organisation we have is politicised and excluding, and I believe that we conveyed these concerns to Mrs Pradalié."

Journalists' working rights have become a hot topic in Palestine since 2021, especially after several media organisations ended contracts with multiple journalists simultaneously.

Later the same year, several journalists were targets of physical aggression and arrested by Palestinian security forces while covering protests that followed the killing of Palestinian dissident Nizar Banat. Some journalists then protested what they considered a lack of action by the journalists' syndicate.

On the other hand, the syndicate claimed it had met with the heads of security forces to discuss aggressions on journalists before calling to boycott the Palestinian government's press releases and conferences in protest. The reformation of the journalist syndicate, and its internal constitution, became a demand voiced by many journalists and civil society activists ever since.

"The amendments of the syndicate's constitution happened in response to demands by journalists and the civil society, and they took place according to due process," Omar Nazzal, a member of the newly-elected board of directors, said to TNA.

"These amendments took into consideration all the proposals put forward by many civil rights organisations. Most proposals were passed, like allowing media officers in NGOs to join the union," he added.

"The latest elections took place under independent supervision by other professional unions and independent civil society bodies, and if there was only one list, it is because whoever could run against it decided to boycott the process," said Nazzal.

"Our new board is also politically diverse, and yes, members have political affiliations, which are inevitable in our Palestinian context, but the door was never closed for those without a political affiliation," he noted.

Working conditions for Palestinian journalists and the role of their syndicate and other organisations in providing protection resurfaced to public attention after the assassination of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh last year by Israeli forces. Israeli forces also killed Palestinian journalist Ghufran Warasneh on her first day of work at a local radio station in Hebron, 20 days after killing Abu Akleh.

Since 2000, Israeli forces have killed more than 50 Palestinian journalists. Currently, nine Palestinian journalists are detained by Israeli forces, while Palestinian journalist Lama Ghosheh faces house arrest and a ban from using social media by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem.