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Since 2010 the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Ramallah is supporting the MIFTAH project “Promoting Good Governance through Empowering Media Students: A Critical Reading of Print Media.” Both organisations agreed to start the project by initiating a “Media Monitoring” unit to monitor the media coverage presented by the Palestinian printed media outlets. The aim is to offer media students at Palestinian universities practice-oriented presentations, workshops and training on responsible reporting that will enable the students to become critical recipients of the Palestinian media.
The second of five presentations in 2011 took place on July 7, 2011 at the MIFTAH offices. Media students from different Palestinian universities participated. The students analysed the coverage of the three big Palestinian daily newspapers on the day after a bomb attack on an Israeli bus station in Jerusalem in March 2011. At the same time, violence in the Gaza Strip escalated and the protests in Syria started in the town of Deraa.
While al-Quds covered the emerging protests in Deraa on its first page in the lead article, al-Ayyam's and al-Hayat al-Jadida's lead articles covered the violence in Gaza and the attack in Jerusalem. The students criticized here that both of these events were linked in the headline, thus creating the impression that the escalation in Gaza and the attack in Jerusalem were connected. Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu had also drawn this connection in his first statement.
The students explained this as a political decision taken by the editorial board. The fact that al-Quds also covered the escalation in Gaza and the Jerusalem attack, though not in its lead article, was deemed a decisive demarcation from Hamas. Since the newspaper is considered close to Fayyad, this was interpreted as an attempt to grant Hamas the least publicity possible.
The students were also critical towards the use of explicit photographic material on all newspapers' front-pages. The usual practice to represent dead children's bodies was considered immoral and not defensible. Instead, one could picture survivors. Moreover, the young analysts noticed the often poor quality of the photographies, as well as their large number on one page.
At the end, the students agreed that much progress is needed, especially in the field of independent coverage. Decisions on which event to cover on the first page are often taken for political reasons by the editorial boards. The decision-making inside the editorial boards has to be reformed. It is also questionable that certain leading representatives of the newspapers have no journalistic background but instead maintain close contacts with politicians of the highest echelon. This field, the nonpartisan and discriminating work of journalists, is one of the core topics of the cooperation between KAS Ramallah and MIFTAH.