Difficult Times for Journalists

After World Press Freedom Day, 03.05.2020, passed, radio stations, news sites and private TV stations returned to worry about the financial crises due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the state of emergency.

Written by: Saleh Masharqa

Celebrating journalists on World Press Freedom Day, 03.05.2020, came to an end, as many local radio stations, news sites and private TV stations returned to worry about the financial crises due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the state of emergency. In more than one institution, the director gave journalists two options: either to take unpaid leave or to pay a certain percentage of the salary, which, in the best case, does not exceed 70%.

Naming a type of media as “private media” leaves it out of public protection because it is not owned by a government or a state-sponsored entity and is motivated by profit. This makes it difficult for officials and citizens to visualize its fragility or at least acknowledge that journalists’ salaries are relatively low, some of whom earn only two hundred dollars a month, while investors’ salaries are high.

There are hundreds of journalists who work in the private or independent media at nearly 75 registered media organizations in the West Bank and dozens of registered or unregistered in the Gaza Strip. The hundreds of journalists and reporters who were described as soldiers in light of the occupation and Covid-19, are experiencing difficult days, as they have families and obligations. They barely collect enough money at the end of the month for necessities. There is a high amount of work stress and psychological pressure due to the difficulty of working remotely and in awful health conditions and producing material and content with personal utensils. We will neither count the pain nor beg, in the name of these people, but all data and figures indicate that this sector is in a real crisis.

The government media should remain in positive competition that protects the authenticity and integrity of the idea of building a progressive and effective media and should suggest to the country an advanced position in the flow of information and the validity of indicators for freedom of opinion and expression.

The idea of collecting a quarter of a million dollars in broadcasting fees from private radio stations can be canceled, with a written agreement between the work parties (the government, union, and beneficiary,) stipulating that the cancellation is in exchange for not affecting the salaries of journalists in local radios and television. Also, it is not difficult to eliminate taxes for this sector. This has always been carried out by the authority, which would financially forgive the media establishment. However, it should be conducted through a document of understanding, a meeting, or any other form that confirms that the removal of taxes is linked to protecting the journalists’ salaries.

It is time for the big companies to recalculate and study their advertisements with the logic of a fair distribution to the media and a national and social responsibility, not with the easiest and most enjoyable accounts on Facebook and the Internet. Watch out, corporate geniuses, your ads on these networks are benefiting California and Silicon Valley, while impoverishing the Gaza Strip and the Hebron Valley.

It will not be difficult for the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority to direct foreign donors to support the journalistic sector, not by coercion, but by professional statistics and reports on the losses that afflicted this sector. There are many Arab funds that donate to Palestine without classifications; it is possible to include this classification in the agenda, which is a convincing and vital item. Funding is not all European. There is local and external Palestinian funding. There is also great hope that this funding will support and develop a vital, diligent and creative press sector. However, the absence of funding will inevitably lead to the breaking of the Palestinian narrative in the eyes of all those who rely on the media, in which the largest percentage is built from the civil and private sectors. Even though there are many ideas, it is more important to convince the decision-makers in the country to take the initiative and support journalists.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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