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Youth-based news agency takes on Palestine's media war

Created 18/09/2008 - 18:48
 
GAZA, September 18, 2008 (MENASSAT) – The Palestine Info Agency (PalInfo) is the first venture of its kind in the Palestinian Territories. A youth-based initiative, PalInfo has been set up as an electronic alternative to the media war that has been waged between Hamas and Fatah ever since Hamas won parliamentary elections in the summer of 2006 and took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

“The media war and the politicization of events made us think about the necessity to start an alternative information source to counter the misinformation coming out of our current local news sources," Gaza resident Mohamad Abu Dabbous, the 28-year-old creator of this project, told MENASSAT.

"We needed to create an impartial news and information outlet as a resource for all Palestinians who want impartiality," Abu Dabbous said.

Youth interests

PalInfo's contributors are a mix of Palestinian youth from the Territories and the Diaspora, all of whom met through the Internet and discovered that they had something in common: a dream of having a Palestinian news outlet that was not politicized and stayed away from the rhetoric that is so common in the Palestinian media.

The initial focus of PalInfo's reporting will be on the issues that matter to the Palestinian youth. But the ultimate goal is to expand its coverage to the larger political issues and to become "a media outlet capable of influencing general opinion and convincing average Palestinians that change is necessary in the media itself."

The existing Palestinian media, PalInfo says, "have failed to address the social, economical, cultural and political issues that exist."

PalInfo will also engage the audience to participate in the debate.

"We aim to allow the audience to express their opinion through posts and general dialogue forums on the website, and stress the necessity of a reasonable dialogue."

The current website is a BETA version, PalInfo emphasizes.

"We planned to launch for a short period only in order to locate the weak points and to avoid any pitfalls in the future. We want to allow our visitors to surf our website and tell us their opinions and their comments via email."

The website currently has a mix of topics ranging from breaking news from the region, international news, a section in Hebrew, financial and banking news, sports and opinion.

Its success, the organizers say, will depend on whether there is a large enough unpoliticized audience in the Palestinian Territories that actually wants unbiased news.

Independence

Abu Ouda is a member of the group from Gaza. He studied journalism at the Free University in The Netherlands. He told MENASSAT that his main desire is for PalInfo to remain independent.

"I will not allow – we will not allow anyone to pressure us or drag us into a sectarian division," he said.

So far, official reactions have been positive.

"We were welcomed by the Ministry of Information in Ramallah where an adviser was very supportive and promised that the Ministry will do its best to help us succeed," Abu Ouda said.

He was less confident about how PalInfo will be accepted in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

"I feel the government in Gaza rejects and fights any media institution that doesn't speak in its name," he said. "I myself write under a pseudonym to protect myself in case I write an article that doesn’t please the government here in Gaza."

As far as funding the project, Abu Dabbous said that it was a grassroots organization, with most of the money coming from their own pockets.

"We designed the website, and booked the server and the domain to launch our experimental phase," he said.

Still, if the news site is going to financially sustainable, money will have to come from somewhere. Abu Dabbous would prefer to partner with a non-governmental organization to avoid falling into the hands of a political party.

The initial feedback from the site's visitors has been encouraging, he said.

"In the three days since the launch, we have received many emails from visitors who welcomed the idea and encouraged us to move forward in order to save the Palestinian media from politics and politicization."

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Visit the Palestinian Info Agency's website here.

 
 

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