UNESCO report launched in Palestine

From the left: Deema Assi, Farid Abudheir, Rasha Amarneh,  Hala Tannous, Hilde Haraldstad, Maher Awawdeh, Maher Abu Zant, Asaad Taffal, Reema Alamleh, Naser Saadat,  Naser Jawabreh (Photo Asem Shunnar)

The Arabic version of the UNESCO report on access to information was launched at An-Najah National University in Nablus in Palestine 29 September in cooperation with the local UNESCO office and JMIC, with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On the occasion of the International Day for Universal Access to Information on September 28 each year, speakers emphasized the right to seek and receive information, stressing the importance of elaborating an Access to Information Law, which would lead to sustainable development, achieve accountability, promote integrity and transparency and strengthen good governance.

Participants also stressed the importance of the enactment of laws that ensure the right to Access to Information, whether in Palestine or other countries that have not enacted such laws yet.

In the opening speech, An-Najah´s Vice President for Academic Affairs Professor Mohammed Alsubu, welcomed the attendees and expressed his delight about launching the report at the university. He talked about several achievements of the university over the past few years, including being ranked the most productive university in Palestine with regards to scientific research and many other fields. He also stressed the importance of mutual cooperation between An-Najah and Oslo Metropolitan University and commended the UNESCO’s role in launching the report from the heart of An-Najah University.

During his remarks, Officer-in-Charge at the UNESCO Ramallah Office, Ahmed Junaid Sorosh, thanked An-Najah University for hosting this event and ‎said:

” I am proud to announce that on the occasion of this celebration, we are launching UNESCO’S in Focus report “Access to Information: A New Promise for Sustainable Development.” We are hopeful that all extensive efforts that were put forward in the process of elaborating an Access to Information Law will lead to the swift adoption of a final text that is fully in line with the international standards and principles.” ‎

Focal point for Communication and Information and Executive Assistant to UNESCO Representative at UNESCO Ramallah Office, Hala Tannous, presented UNESCO’s report on Access to Information. She was focusing on the main trends in access to information; namely, that ATI is recognized more and more as a prerequisite for sustainable development, increased interest in providing ATI statutory guarantees and improving implementation and new digital challenges and opportunities ahead.

Commenting on the report, General Manager of Legal Affairs at the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, Rasha Amarneh, pointed out that “the right to have access to information has become a fundamental human right like the freedom of opinion and expression”. She also referred to the importance of adopting and improving legislation for public access to information to drive sustainable development, achieve accountability, promote integrity and transparency and strengthen good governance in Palestine. Moreover, she talked about the campaigns, which were led by journalists and civil society institutions in 2010 and 2011 to enact an integrated law in Palestine.

In turn, Representative of the Ministry of Information, Maher Awawdeh, talked about the current circumstances in which Palestine is going through because of the Israeli occupation. He pointed out that despite all the difficult circumstances that the Palestinian people, the relevant ministries and civil society institutions are seeking to enact an appropriate law and make progress on this issue.

Representative of Norway, Hilde Haraldstad, thanked An-Najah University for hosting the event and commended the long- standing cooperation between An-Najah and Oslo Met on media education. She also awarded a special mention to Dr. Farid Abudheir, Lecturer at An-Najah’s Department of Communication and Digital Media for his efforts.

Haraldstad also pointed out that access to information is clearly linked to and reinforces the fundamental human right of freedom of expression, both of which are prerequisites for social and political participation. “The right to seek and receive information is also increasingly recognized as a prerequisite for sustainable development and prosperity. The availability of reliable data for citizens, journalists, civil society, law enforcement agencies and others, also contributes greatly to facilitate accountability and it is also an essential tool in the fight against corruption, a crippling phenomenon for many states.”, she said.

Representative of the Palestinian Syndicate of Journalism, Reema Al-Amleh, pointed out that the absence of a law on the right to have access to information hinders journalists’ work. The Syndicate is working and cooperating with civil society institutions in Palestine to enact and implement the law.

From the right: Officer at the Palestinian National Security with some of the audience. (Photo Asem Shunnar)

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