On Saturday, July 30, 2005, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights sent a letter to the Minister of Interior requesting that he reconsider the decision taken by the Ministry of Interior the previous day.
This decision prohibits the publication of any written, oral, or audiovisual news related to the Palestinian Security Forces or police without first contacting the Ministry of Interior and National Security Media Office, and submitting a permission form.
Al-Mezan believes that this ban, which was issued by the Ministry of Interior and National Security and was directed to all local, Arab, and international media agencies, infringes upon freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and citizens’ rights to obtain information.
This infringement is particularly troubling as it comes as we continue to strive to strengthen the building of a democratic society.
Legally, it is the norm that speech be permitted, and the exception that it be limited.
Article 37 of the 1995 Printing and Publications Law stipulates that only the following specific forms of expression may be restricted: Any secret information on the police or general security forces, their weapons, ammunition, positions, movement, or training.
Articles or materials that degrade or show contempt for religions or creeds for which freedom is guaranteed by law.
Articles that damage national unity or that incite the committing of crime, that cultivate resentment, or that encourage hatred, divisiveness, conflict, or factionalism among members of society.
Al-Mezan understands the difficult circumstances through which the Palestinian territories are passing and the enormity of the tasks and challenges facing the Ministry of Interior.
Nevertheless, we believe that it is precisely these circumstances that make it absolutely fundamental to respect the rule of law and protect public freedoms, particularly freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
At the same time, Al-Mezan strongly condemns those parties that have published news and images that undermine national security and the highest national interest, and provided part of the basis for the current ban.
However, Al-Mezan believes that these instances are not an excuse to limit the freedom of the press, restrict its right to publish, make it subject to the Media Office of the Ministry of Interior and National Security, and require it to submit permission forms before covering certain bodies.
Any breach on the part of the press should be handled by the body duly sanctioned by law.
It is the judiciary that must make final decisions in this regard.
Al-Mezan would like to reiterate that it is the media’s guaranteed right to publish news, and that it should undertake all efforts to obtain information in accordance with the law.
This is legislated in Law No.
9 of 1995 on printing and publications.
2 of this law states, “Journalism and publication are liberties, and freedom of opinion is guaranteed to every Palestinian, who may express his opinion freely in speech, writing, pictures, and drawing, and in the press and other mediums.
” Article No.
3 stipulates that “the press freely carries out its mission of presenting news, information, and commentary, and participates in distributing ideas, culture, and knowledge, within the bounds of law and within the framework of protecting liberties, rights, public duties, and respect for the sanctity of others’ private lives.
” Article No.
4 provides for “(A) the citizen’s examination of events, ideas, perspectives, and information at the local, Arab, Islamic, and international levels.
(B) the clearing of a space in which citizens can publish their views, and (C) the search for, analysis of, publication of, circulation of, and commentary upon information, news, and statistics that citizens obtain from different sources, within the limits of law.
” In conclusion, Al-Mezan urges the Minister of Interior to reconsider this decision, which runs counter to the provisions of the law and contains measures, not stipulated by law, that limit freedom of expression.