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Newsmakers Become Newscasters As Palestinians Try Hand at Tv

July 21, 1993
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Tired of being the constant subject of television news shows broadcast by others, Palestinians this week produced an experimental newscast of their own that they hope will be a forerunner of Palestinian television.

“This is the first step in the birth of the national Palestinian television,” Hanan Ashrawi, spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks with Israel, said at the end of a closed-circuit broadcast shown Tuesday to an audience in eastern Jerusalem’s Hakawati Theater.

With two Palestinian newspapers in the eastern part of Jerusalem having closed down this year for financial reasons, Palestinian leaders have recognized the need for more extensive Palestinian media.

Although the half-hour Palestinian “Experimental Television News” was greeted with cheers by the crowd at the Hakawati, the idea remains only a hope at this point, since Israel has consistently denied broadcast licenses to Palestinians.

The experimental news broadcast, prepared by a team of 44 Palestinians over the past two weeks, was funded by a Swedish government grant.

The newscast was also organized with the help of a communications team affiliated with the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks.

Among those in the packed hall during the presentation were prominent Palestinians, including. Ashrawi and Riad al-Malki, a member of the hard-line Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.


The anchorman was Bassem Abu-Sumaya, well-known among Palestinians for his reports from the territories on behalf of Radio Monte Carlo, which broadcasts from Paris in Arabic with extensive coverage of the Arab world.

At Abu-Sumaya’s side were two students, one from the West Bank town of Ramallah and the other from Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip.

The broadcast included reports from the territories, including an interview with Dr. Haidar Abdel-Shafi, head of the Palestinian negotiating delegation, and a studio debate on a proposed Palestinian-Jordanian confederation.

Abdel-Shafi said the Americans were exerting heavy pressure on the Palestinians to soften their stand in the negotiations.

The broadcast did not include even one report on events in Israel proper.

Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist who directed the production of the newscast, expressed the hope that the Israeli authorities would give the Palestinian television station the necessary permits to go on the air.

He said that as long as there was no Palestinian institution with the authority to grant broadcast licenses, the Palestinians would accept Israeli terms for the broadcast, including restrictions of military censorship.

Knesset member Yael Dayan of the Labor Party said she had already discussed the matter with officials and Knesset members and saw no reason why the authorities would not grant a permit to a Palestinian television station if it meets the necessary requirements.

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