As journalists worldwide celebrated World Free Press Day on May 3, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank chose to wage a campaign of intimidation against Palestinian reporters who commit the "crime" of meeting with Israeli counterparts.
The decision to punish Palestinian journalists who hold meetings with Israeli colleagues began after a series of joint seminars that were held in Norway, Germany and France. At these seminars, Israeli and Palestinian journalists discussed joint cooperation and ways of promoting freedom of expression.
The syndicate, dominated by Fatah and affiliated with the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah, threatened sanctions against any Palestinian journalist who engages in "normalization" with Israel.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate functions more as a political body than a union that is supposed to defend the rights of its members.
The syndicate wants Palestinian journalists to serve as soldiers on behalf of the Palestinian cause. Journalists, according to the syndicate, should first and foremost be loyal to their president, prime minister, government, homeland and cause. As for the truth, it appears at the bottom of the syndicate's list of priorities.
The syndicate's main task should be to defend freedom of media in the Palestinian territories. But instead of fighting for the rights of Palestinian journalists, who are facing a campaign of intimidation under the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the syndicate has also decided to join the clampdown on freedom of expression.
A syndicate that reports directly to the office of the president in Ramallah can never serve the interests of Palestinian journalists.
Cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian journalists has never been a new or unique phenomenon. Long before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, representatives of the two sides maintained close ties, often exchanging information and helping each other cover stories both inside Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But the Palestinian Authority's syndicate is now trying to put an end to this cooperation under the pretext of combating normalization with Israel.
Sanctions include expulsion from the syndicate and a boycott by Palestinian newspapers and other media outlets belonging to the Palestinian Authority.
If anyone stands to lose from the ban on holding contacts with Israeli media representatives, it is the Palestinian journalists themselves. Over the past few decades, Palestinian journalists have helped Israeli newspapers and TV stations cover the story on the Palestinian side. Thanks to this cooperation, the Israeli public learned a lot about what was happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In recent weeks, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested at least nine Palestinian journalists and bloggers for exposing corruption scandals and posting comments critical of Palestinian leaders on Facebook. The affected journalists complained that the syndicate did not make a serious effort on their behalf, limiting its response to issuing laconic statements demanding the release of some of the detainees.
The Palestinian Authority and its media group clearly do not want the Israeli public and the outside world to receive information about the situation in the Palestinian territories.
This is why they are now waging the new campaign of intimidation against journalists who are found guilty of meeting with Israeli counterparts.