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Open letter to Israeli and Palestinian leaders

Aug. 29, 2011 5:19 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2011 5:17 P.M.)
The full text of the International Press Institute and the Israeli-Palestinian Journalists Forum's letter calling for press freedom ahead of the UN's possible recognition of Palestine.

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

Dear President Mahmoud Abbas,

Dear Ismail Haniyeh,

We, a forum of journalists from Israel and the Palestinian Territories, are writing today to urge you as the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian National Authority and Gaza to respect the rights of journalists operating in your territories.

The IPI Israeli-Palestinian Journalists Forum is a group of 25 journalists from Israel and Palestinian Territories who gathered together in support of press freedom in June 2011 in Vienna at the initiative of the International Press Institute (IPI), the world's oldest press freedom organization.

The Palestinian National Authority is currently working toward the recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations. This is a matter of interest to the region and the world, but moreover, to every person living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. That is why journalists working for Palestinian and Israeli media must be allowed to do their work without restriction. This is a matter of democratic principle. Journalists must be allowed to access and gather information without restriction. Journalists must also be free to responsibly publish news and commentary, without fear of attack or legal reprisal.

This is necessary so that the public in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have access to news from all sides, and to a wide array of political opinion. Journalists must be kept safe so that the people they serve can be kept informed.

The recent events in south Israel and Gaza make press more important than ever. Journalists must be permitted to work on the ground, so that they can report on the social and humanitarian aspects of attacks on all sides, and not just on military and political news. When journalists are prevented from travelling, or are arrested or threatened with attack, they are less able and less likely to report in-depth stories from the other side, and it is the public that suffers because it receives limited information.

Meeting at their first session in 1946, the U.N. General Assembly declared: "Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated. Freedom of information implies the right to gather, transmit and publish news anywhere and everywhere without fetters. As such it is an essential factor in any serious effort to promote the peace and progress of the world."

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

We hope that you, as leaders in the region, will respect the rights of each person living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories to access information and news that will help them to understand and make informed decisions about their government and future.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your response, and would be happy to meet and discuss this issue with you at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Steering Committee IPI -Israeli-Palestinian Journalists Forum (IPJF)

Taghreed El Khodary

Lily Galili

Mohammed Daraghmeh

Daniel Zaken

Anthony Mills

Alison Bethel McKenzie

Director - International Press Institute (IPI)
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