MADA: A complaint by Palestinian Finance Ministry against a journalist suppresses freedom of expression
Ramallah 13th March 2014: The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) is concerned for the status of freedom of expression in Palestine, after a complaint was submitted by the Minister of Finance Mr. Shukri Bshara against Jaffar Sadaqa, a journalist who wrote a report about the Ministry, especially that his report tackled the accountability of the ministry. The complaint included charges of defaming the government and the Ministry of Finance and sabotaged its relations with donors as reported by Sadaqa. The complaint is considered a pressure to restrain the media’s ability and freedom to follow and report on public institutions, and an attempt to suppress freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and The Press and Publications Law.
Article (26) The Palestinian Press and Publication law states:
“if a Press Publication publishes an incorrect news item or article that includes incorrect information related to the public interest, the responsible chief editor shall publish a written reply or correction which he receives from the concerned authority, free of charge, in the issue following the date on which the reply or correction is received and in the same place and font in which the same news item or article was published in the press publication”.
MADA is asking the Minister of Finance, who is a public figure and may be subject to criticism and accountability, to withdraw the complaint submitted against Sadaqa, and we ask the media outlet "that Sadaqa works for" to refrain from conducting any investigation, because he did not commit any administrative violations and regarding the content and accuracy of the information contained in his report, the Press and Publications Law existed to rule in such issues. Knowing that the responsibility for publishing according to the law does not fall on the journalist alone, but on the chief editor and the owner, in accordance to Article 42, which states:
“A public right action in respect of crimes relating to Periodical Publications provided for in this law shall be brought against the responsible chief editor of the publication and the writer of the article as principle actors. The owner of the Press Publication, the chief editor and the writer shall be jointly liable for personal rights arising from such crimes and for litigation expenses. The owner shall not be subjected to any criminal liability, unless his complicity or actual interference in the crime is proven”.