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Palestinian commentator criticizes Information Ministry

BBC Monitoring

Excerpt from report by Palestinian Authority-owned newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah website on 26 January

[Commentary by Hafiz al-Barghuthi: "Mass Media"]

Over the past days, a failure of the PNA and government official media was noticeable in dealing with current events, particularly through the satellite channels. PNA media spokesmen were not successful whether with respect to the Gaza events or the Damascus conference. In choosing spokesmen, satellite channels perhaps do that on the basis of their positions and thus they look for suitable people who would say what they want them to say, or they would "corner" these spokesmen.

Official mass media are perhaps still in a coma due to the negligence of decision makers. The Ministry of Information is practically without a minister because the minister fell more in love with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - because of its political and other merits and its openness to the world - instead of being isolated in the information ministry headquarters in Al-Bireh [Riyad al-Maliki is both the Information Minister and! the Minister of Foreign Affairs]. So far, the ministry has not issued a statement on the abduction of colleague Munir Abu-Rizq. Likewise, the honoured Council of Ministers did not give any attention to the abduction of Consultant Umar Hilmi al-Ghul as if he were a consultant for qat affairs in Yemen.

In the three-year plan, every official local sector was given due importance with the exception of the information sector, which is still suffering from a state of extreme human, material and moral poverty. Likewise, the effective spokesmen were absent from the scene and the official position, whether that of Fatah or the PNA, was defensive rather than offensive whether in facing the current local events or the occupation. All this is forgotten by decision makers as if information and its impact do not concern them. They do not realize the importance of these things except late and they are satisfied with lamentation and blame instead of taking steps that support real an! d effective information that serves the country and the citizen.

The idea of privatizing official information was raised as if the Palestinian enterprise was completed and the state was established and there was no more need for local information that defends issues, mobilizes people, spreads the spirit of challenge, and responds to lies. In fact, this is an illusion and running away from reality. No investor dares to invest in this sector as long as the political and economic conditions are not stable. No country in the world has abandoned official information, including the countries that have no problems. Rather, the countries that cancelled the ministries of information and the official mass media resorted to transforming the Foreign Ministry into a Ministry of Information and the diplomats became media men in the first place. The presidency and the government must now give priority to the media and to find effective spokesmen and modern mass media. This matter has been neglected by decision makers for a long time. It should be taken! care of now because they are the ones who lose from such neglect.

Source: Al-Hayat al-Jadidah newspaper website, Ramallah, in Arabic 26 Jan 08


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