The directors of rival Hamas- and Fatah-affiliated television networks held a public dialogue for the first time in months at a conference for journalists sponsored by the Ameen Netork on Friday.In case you were thinking that they led independent media organizations.
Bassem Abu Summayya, the chief of Television and Radio for Fatah-allied Palestine TV spoke at the conference in Jericho, while Fathi Hammad, the director of Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV appeared via videoconference from Gaza.
Dr. Essmat Abdul Khaleq lay the grounds for the dialogue, saying that the conversation was aimed at strengthening professional and humanitarian values.
The journalists were also shown film clips of some of the most venomous and degrading material aired on both stations. Since fighting between Hamas and Fatah turned violent last year, both sides have used their media to demonize the other. Graphic images of Hamas fighters torturing Fatah leader Sameeh Al Madhun, for example, were some of the pictures that were used in Hamas' and Fatah's media battle.
The Palestinian Authority has banned Al-Aqsa TV from working in the West Bank, and Hamas has prohibited Palestine TV from operating freely in Gaza.
While both senior journalist said they welcomed the chance for dialogue, the conversation itself was not without accusations.
Bassem Abu Sumayya said, "Hammad and I depend on the political leaders to solve this situation as it was before the coup in Gaza. We used to interview some Hamas representatives until Hamas boycotted Palestine TV channel as well as forcibly seized our headquarters in Gaza. Unfortunately this was ordered by Mr. Hammad. They also decided to arrest any journalist who works for Palestine Television."
Abu Sumayya denied that Palestine TV blacklisted political leaders who are against Fatah.
Fathi Hammad said, "Our mission is to define our points of strength to the world." He also declared that Hamas is ready for any initiative regarding reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Hammad added that the Palestine TV staff can return to their headquarters in Gaza after coordinating with the government and the security services in Gaza. He said that they will not allow any woman on television who is not wearing a hijab, a headscarf.
As the debate ended, the journalists at the conference were left wondering if Hammad and Abu Sumayya could do anything to resolve the present conflict?
Journalist Hamdi Farraj said that it would be unfair to consider the conflict between Hamas and Fatah to be between Hammad and Abu Sumayya, who actually cannot be held responsible for decisions made by political leaders.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad