|Palestinian video-conference unites media factions|
|\"Work to construct mutual understanding between rival political factions in the West Bank and Gaza strip.\" This is what Palestinian journalists and media representatives from across the political divide agreed to do last week in an historic video-conference called \"Palestinians choose reconciliation.\"
Influential media professionals from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank took part in a video-conference last week to discuss the effect that the media have had on Palestinian reconciliation efforts.
Separated physically due to Israeli travel restrictions, it was the first meeting to include Palestinian heavyweights from academic and journalistic circles on both sides of the current political divide between Hamas and Fatah.
Journalists like Adnan Abu Hasna, accused the Palestinian media establishment of exacerbating the social divisions in Palestinian society, which has all but buckled under the added pressure of western-led economic sanctions and Israeli military control.
Attendees affirmed the need to be \"professional in their conduct,\" and to report more on \"social issues and human rights, by raising general public awareness,\" something those gathered said has been lacking in media coverage in recent years.
From Ramallah, Nasser Lahham, editor-in-chief of the SAWA news agency, said, \"The lack of professionalism in Gaza and the West Bank has proved the media is culpable in the civil war that has occurred,\" something he said was a failure of \"cultural media\" in the Palestinian media landscape.
Abu Hasna told MENASSAT that the insider reasons for holding the video-conference were to force a resolution between the two feuding Palestinian factions, Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh\'s Hamas party, which controls Gaza, and President Mahmoud Abbas\' Fatah party, which controls the West Bank.
He added, \"The presence of media capable of providing a balanced and comprehensive coverage of internal events is a basic condition to build peace which would diminish the political polarization in any society.\"
Palestinians are informed, Abu Hasna said, and they listen religiously to radio and TV stations and rely increasingly on the Internet for their news.
\"You could say that the number of Internet users in Gaza exceeds that in most Arab cities,\" he said.
Participants also discussed more obscure aspects of media responsibility for lowering societal stress levels and diverting the partisan politics tearing the Palestinian social fabric apart.
\"If the journalist follows the politician, he becomes a clown,\" Hasna said.
Lexicon of division
Fathi Hamed, president of the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV station, told conference attendees that the row between Hamas and Fatah had caused the station\'s management to review its on-air language guidelines.
\"We banned terminology that would incite conflict,\" he said, citing Hamas\' own endorsement of their policy.
\"To answer Hamas\' call, we worked on calming the situation, giving a brighter image for the Palestinian people, ending the media propaganda campaigns and encouraging the popular calls for more dialogue.\"
SAWA editor-in-chief Lahham said the Internet had increasingly become a battlefield for partisan rhetoric.
He said, \"Palestinian e-media became a fast and easy way to send hate messages, which over the last two years had widened the internal Palestinian dispute. Like separating Gaza and the West Bank, e-media was characterized by a political split between Fatah and Hamas.\"
The Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, Mohammad Sobeih, said the media\'s role in spreading awareness was paramount in ending internal disputes and for helping to create the conditions to establish a Palestinian state. He also carried a message from the General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, pledging the League\'s readiness to sponsor the Palestinian dialogue and apply a strategic plan to revive Palestinian unity.
Marseille,07 08 2008