UNRWA Honours Palestinian Journalists on World Press Freedom Day 2017

31 May 2017
© 2017 UNRWA Photo by Abeer Ismail

Earlier this month, UNRWA celebrated World Press Freedom Day 2017 in the West Bank with a press event to honour Palestinian journalists for their work for Palestine refugees. Director of UNRWA Operations (DUO) in the West Bank Scott Anderson, his deputies, chiefs of area offices and UNRWA West Bank field programme chiefs were in attendance to express their appreciation for the journalists’ work and address their questions about UNRWA services.

The journalists who were honoured at the event were recognized for their balanced and informed accounts of events pertaining to UNRWA and to Palestine refugees. Their regular fact-checking contact with the UNRWA West Bank Field Office leadership and programme staff, as well as their attendance at field-wide UNRWA events exemplifies a dedication to informed and truthful reporting that was a criteria for honourees. 

Mona al-Qawasmyeh, a journalist for Al-Quds newspaper, was honoured for her dedication to truth-telling and personal sacrifice. As a Palestine refugee and resident of Shu’fat camp, Mona has been a long-time unofficial interlocutor between camp inhabitants and UNRWA camp management. She has advocated for increased communications between Palestine refugees and UNRWA and has dedicated her life to community activism and journalism. She makes it a point to cover as many stories as she can, always working extra hours to journey to wherever the breaking story brings her. Her work offers an invaluable glimpse into the everyday realities of camp life. 

At the event, Ms. al-Qawasmyeh inquired about the sanitation situation in Shu’fat camp. In response, Mr. Anderson noted the Agency’s dedication to improving the sewage management issues and touted the newly initiated works to improve the camp’s overburdened sewage system, which was made possible by a US$ 1.4 million commitment from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).

Najeeb Faraj of Al-Quds Newspaper was also in attendance. A regular attendee of UNRWA media roundtables, Mr. Faraj is known for his work to help improve UNRWA services for refugees. Mr. Faraj asked the DUO about further cuts to benefits for Palestine refugees in the West Bank. The DUO stressed that no such cuts were planned and noted that, on the contrary, 2016 saw a continuation of record spending on hospitalizations and medical care. He also went on to laud the new Shu’fat Health Centre as further proof of the Agency’s investment in the health of Palestine refugees.

Another honouree in attendance was Samir Khweira from Al-Quds satellite channel. The channel had recently filmed a news feature highlighting the high quality of the UNRWA education programme, especially in remote parts of the West Bank. Their feature took them to Qalqilya, where they highlighted the story of Sharifah Mohammad Ahmad Ali Mansour, the 68-year-old student from the Qalqilya Basic Boys School. Initially a school attendant, Sharifah was welcomed into the first-grade classroom of Wael Ibrahim to start her studies. The channel brought the story – which quickly went viral – to its wide viewership, challenging the public narrative of ever-shrinking UNRWA services and poor quality of education.

The journalists lauded this effort towards increased access to UNRWA leadership in the West Bank. They expressed their appreciation for the availability and openness of the leadership team and expressed hopes that the event would be held annually. The full list of honourees is below: 

  • Zaki Abu Alhalawa - Al-Quds newspaper
  • Mona Al-Qawasmyeh - Al-Quds newspaper
  • Muath Shrayda - Director of Radio Al Najah in Nablus
  • Amin Abu Warda - Director and Editor-in-Chief for ASDA'A online news agency
  • Samir Khweira - Al-Quds satellite channel
  • Ali Smoudi - Al-Quds newspaper 
  • Najeeb Faraj - Al-Quds newspaper 
  • Alaa Al-Abed - Palestine TV

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
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