The prime minister in Ramallah said Thursday that his counterpart in Israel was ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of Palestinian prisoners.
Salam Fayyad said Benjamin Netanyahu is accountable for the health of hundreds of prisoners on hunger strike, and he called on the international community to intervene.
Thousands of Palestinians are on hunger strike in Israeli jails, and several are at risk of death. They are protesting detention without trial, restrictive visiting rights and limited access to educational materials.
“Their cause is an integral part of the homeland’s cause,” Fayyad said, referring to a slogan declared by journalists marking World Press Freedom Day: “Press freedom is part of the homeland’s freedom.”
He added: “When it’s about freedom in Palestine, including freedom of press, I think of the freedom that’s on every Palestinian’s mind in these hard times, namely those on strike in the occupation’s cells.”
Speaking at a reception marking the annual press freedom day, Fayyad defended his government’s commitment to free expression and opinion and called on journalists to work without fear.
“I tell you that we’re committed, out of our commitment to public freedom and its protection and conservation in Palestine, to freedom of the press without limits,” he said. “I greet you every day for your role in delivering Palestine’s message to the world, and what you do to push freedoms forward.”
Fayyad acknowledged lapses in protecting freedom of expression and cited internal disagreements about “the rational balance between total freedom and putting a fence around it.”
“We must choose to remove restraints on these freedoms to the maximum degree,” he said. “This includes, for example, the attempt recently to block websites, which isn’t technically feasible.”
Mashour Abu Daka, the former communications minister who resigned last week after criticizing the attorney general’s decision to block websites, defended Fayyad’s role Wednesday.
Abu Daka told French radio that when the decision was first made, “the cabinet was against the blockages. The prime minister was against it and this was (stated) by the prime minister. He said a journalist’s freedom limit is ‘up to the sky,’ and there shouldn’t be any hindrance on journalists to express their views.”
He added: “We have a problem in the legal infrastructure, and this has to be addressed by the president, himself, because the cabinet at various stages was powerless.”