Censorship and Self-censorship in Palestine

Palestinian journalists are under stress from three directions. They are influenced by the Israeli occupation forces, the Palestinian government and Hamas.

The media landscape is greatly politicized both in Israel and in Palestine and the group or political party identification of journalists is a very common problem.

According to the World Press Freedom Index, one of the greatest challenges to journalists working in Palestine both in Gaza and in the West Bank is self-censorship.

The greatest challenges to journalists working in Palestine both in Gaza and in the West Bank is self-censorship.

Even though the threat of violence is not severe, social pressure, taboos and low wages make the work of journalists harder. Issues like politics, religion, domestic violence or neglecting children are seldom reported in an investigative manner, even if the talk on the street is free. This is how self-censorship is a question that relates to culture and the society’s customs.

Examples of censorship and self-censorship that apply to journalists in the Palestinian territories

  1. Israeli (military) censorship
    Palestinian journalists have no free access to Israel, nor will they be granted a press card. Their work is prevented for example by confiscating their material, or by destroying the editorial equipment. Journalists can be arrested without specifying a reason.
  2. a) Palestinian Authority censorship
    in West Bank (censorship by the self-government body) which prevents journalists from accessing information sources, arrests and threatens them.
    b) Hamas censorship
    in Gaza is a degree more extreme. The life of the journalist can be in danger, if the articles are contrary to Hamas’ take.
  3. Editorial censorship
    The managing editor or the editor-in-chief intervenes on an article for non-journalistic reasons. This can result in shelving of the article or demands for re-editing the article. This often has to do with financial pressures from advertisers or threats from officials to close down the functions of the media office.
  4. Financial censorship
    Advertisements are pulled back due to a too critical tone of writing or advertisers campaign against the sales of newsstand copies.
  5. Self-censorship
    This type of censorship is connected to losing face, where journalists are bound as guarantors of an own state for the Palestinians. For this reason it is not suitable for journalists to publish articles on corruption, (for the absence of a law that gives access to information or the fear of losing foreign financial aid) or the lack of governmental democracy (peace process and the dream of an independent state is endangered)
  6. Social censorship and self-censorship
    This type of censorship can include family, kin and local issues that are kept silent about in addition to religious taboos. Such things can include sexual minorities, teenage pregnancies, instances of rape and abuse. As a consequence of handling such issues, local journalists might receive death threats or they might be shut out from their kin or the local community.

Source: Tapio Kujala: Media War in the Middle East – The Cross-Pressures of Journalism in the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict.