Journalists Protest US Press Freedom Reception

Activists and journalists demonstrated outside a US-sponsored event marking World Press Freedom Day in Ramallah on Thursday, after the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate called for a boycott.

The US Consulate organized the event at the Ceaser’s Hotel in Ramallah, but the union urged journalists to boycott the event in protest of American policy toward the Palestinians and the prisoner hunger strike.

Palestinian security forces arrived at the scene and prevented protesters from entering the hotel.

Demonstrators chanted slogans condemning American policy, which they said was against the Palestinian cause, and expressed their rejection of American bias toward Israel.

Ali Obeidat, an activist, told Ma’an the sit-in sends a message to the Obama administration that it should stand beside the Palestinian people and condemn Israel’s actions against the prisoners.

Obeidat said freedom of the press in Palestine surpassed America, "where there’s suppression of freedom of the press of those who condemn Israel."

Inside, US consul general Daniel Rubinstein told journalists that "I salute you today on the important role you play, through your responsible and accurate reporting, in strengthening the institutions of a future Palestinian state. We know you face many challenges in doing your jobs.

"But, I urge you not to give up hope and to continue your tireless efforts to promote press freedom in your communities, the Palestinian territories and around the world."

He also said the US "cannot lose sight of certain universal principles. … It is for this reason that the US has been honest with its friends when we believe these principles are not being upheld.

"Last week, we made clear our concern regarding some recent actions by the PA. We are similarly candid with the Israeli government regarding issues related to freedom of the press. And each year, in our annual report on human rights, we document the many restrictions on journalists in Gaza at the hands of Hamas."

The US, he said, "is committed to preserving the Internet and other connective technologies as platforms where people can freely interact, collaborate, and debate issues that are important to them."

Some 20 Palestinian unions, including the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, called Wednesday for a boycott of a reception, according to the state news agency in Ramallah.

The unions said the call came "to protest US policies toward our national issues, particularly the issue of the prisoners and freedom of the Palestinian press in light of a rise in criminal Israeli belligerence against journalists without hearing one word of condemnation by the US administration or its representatives."

(Ma’an)

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