Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Freedom comes to Palestinians of Gaza with burst of free speech radio stations

September 13, 2005
Press Release


On the day Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip on 12 September, 16 private radio stations in the West Bank and Gaza came together under the banner of AMIN Internews to cover the withdrawal. This meant that from Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip to Jenin in the north of the West Bank and in an exceptional joint broadcast everyone was able to witness firsthand the events of the day.

The “united broadcast,’ as it has become to be known, had two main studios, one based at Al Manar radio station in Gaza and the other at Ajyal in Ramallah. From these sites listeners jointed in the celebration whilst hearing reactions from politicians, community leaders, experts and ordinary Palestinians.

Among the politicians that were interviewed, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mr. Ahmad Qurie, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Information Dr. Nabil Shaath, Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Samir Hulaileh, and Head of the PLO Negotiations Department, Dr. Saeb Erekat.

In this company, the mayors of Rafah, Khan Younis, Dair al Balah and Jenin also had the opportunity to give their views.

The broadcast was not just a platform for the political leaders; AMIN Internews also brought on air several experts, analysts and economists including Timothy Rothermel, UNDP Special Representative in Palestine.

The stations themselves were delighted with the broadcast.

Talal Abu Rahmeh, Manar radio station in Gaza City who co-hosted the united broadcast said “it was one of the most successful experiences he has had since the opening of the station itself.” Mr. Abu Rahmeh went on to say, “We felt it brought us together as one family in this united broadcast.”

Zaid Shalbak, owner of the Jenin-based Al-Balad radio station, said the “coverage of the untied broadcast was not only excellent but comprehensive.” He went on to add: “This was an event that concerned all Palestinians. As individual radio stations, and due to the political problems we all face, we were not able to provide coverage of the event that our listeners deserved. However, due to the help of AMIN/ Internews, Al Balad and other stations succeeded beyond all our expectations.”

In Hebron, Ayman Qawasmi, owner of Al Hurriya radio said “the listeners felt that they are close to what’s going on in Gaza. People followed with interest what was happening there.” Ayman continued, “This coverage made the listeners feel that they are in Gaza not in Hebron.”

Ihab Barahmeh, who owns Qamar radio station in Jericho, believes that people welcomed this coverage. “Listeners told me this is what they want to hear often in the station,” he said. Moreover, he added, “It was great to feel that united efforts lead to great results and achievements.”

Commenting on the united broadcast, Khaled Abu Aker, Executive Director of AMIN/Internews, said “the success of this experience was a result of the full and strong cooperation of the stations and their conviction of the importance of uniting the broadcast for such an important occasion. They are convinced that joint work is much better than individual effort and that joint work produces great and remarkable results, as was the case.”

AMIN/ Internews is involved in training and development of local radio stations, and is part of an E.U funded project.

This training has already taken the form of helping and improving journalistic writing, reporting and broadcast skills. Alongside this AMIN/Internews has run courses on panel discussions in addition to technical training, the first of its kind in Palestine.

The united broadcast is the second such collective effort in Palestine managed and produce by AMIN/Internews. The first was during Palestinian Presidential Election Day on January 9, 2005.