The Australian government is being urged to condemn Israel’s ‘dangerous attack’ on six prominent Palestinian human rights groups after Israeli authorities declared them terrorist organisations.
Australian human rights advocates, aid groups and unions have released a statement calling on the government to pressure Israel to reverse the ‘arbitrary’ decisions immediately.
The groups include: Al-Haq, a human rights group founded 42 years ago; Addameer rights group; Defence for Children International-Palestine; The Bisan Centre for Research and Development; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
The statement said Israel’s move is ‘designed to criminalise, persecute, and silence’ Palestinian civil society and human rights defenders who monitor alleged violations by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Territories.
‘Palestinian human rights organisations are critical to documenting decades of grave abuses by Israeli occupation authorities,’ the statement said.
‘The consequences of this new measure will further criminalise their human rights activities and license Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets, arrest, and imprison their staff.
‘In addition to the dangers that these designations present to a shrinking Palestinian civic space, it also has implications for Australians and Australian organisations who collaborate with, and rely on the work of, Palestinian human rights organisations.’
Signatories to the statement include the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Amnesty International Australia, international human rights lawyer and barrister Jennifer Robinson, the United Workers Union, the Australian Council for International Development – whose members include dozens of charities and NGOs.
Israel’s Defence Ministry (IDM) last Friday claimed the groups had links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left-wing movement with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis.
‘Those organisations present themselves as acting for humanitarian purposes; however, they serve as a cover for the “Popular Front” through promotion and financing,’ the IDM said in a statement.
It claimed the groups funnel large sums of money from European countries and international organisations to the PFLP.
Australia ‘should demand the designation be revoked’
Rawan Arraf, the Executive Director for the Australian Centre for International Justice, said Australia should demand the ‘outrageous’ designations be revoked.
‘Israeli authorities haven’t provided any evidence for the allegations, Arraf told ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company).
‘There are many Australians and Australian organisations who interact, follow, share and support the work of these Palestinian human rights organisations.
‘The Australian government should immediately condemn the decision, reach out to the Israeli government and demand that they rescind the decision to designate these human rights organisations as terrorist organisations immediately.’
The designations have also prompted forceful criticism from a wide range of international groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International which described the step as ‘appalling and unjust’.
Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Omar Shakir, told ABC it is incumbent on countries like Australia to speak out.
‘This attack grows out of years of efforts by the Israeli government to muzzle human rights reporting,’ Shakir said.
‘Representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have faced punitive travel bans and deportations but Palestinian human rights groups have always borne the brunt of this repression.
‘The response of the international community will be a test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders.
‘It’s vitally important that the international community, including the Australian government, and other actors in Australia, stand strongly with civil society in the face of this really dangerous escalation.’
- A new study pointing to a crisis in Australian public interest journalism demands urgent government action to safeguard democracy says the union for Australia’s journalists.
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), says Australian journalism is in crisis after years of disruption, undermining and neglect, and swift action is needed to halt the decline.
MEAA commissioned the Centre for Future Work at The Australia Institute to prepare the report, The Future of Work in Journalism, to examine the state of Australian journalism and to develop recommendations that could be used to address the serious decline in public interest journalism that has taken place over the past decade.
The report says journalism is a ‘public good’ that can only be sustained by a dramatic renovation of government supports.
MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom said: ‘It’s abundantly clear that the slow erosion of Australia’s media industry over many years has taken its toll on public interest journalism.
‘As this study shows, failure to take dramatic steps now places our democracy at risk.’
He said the crisis was most stark in the disappearance of dozens of outlets and hundreds of jobs from regional, rural and community media in the past few years.
The Australia Institute’s study reveals that the number of journalists has fallen dramatically over the past decade and that decline will continue without effective policy and regulatory changes.
Efforts to support journalism have, to date, been inadequate and poorly targeted.
Media workers have delivered massive productivity gains in an environment of ongoing cost-cutting, but have been ‘rewarded’ by stagnant wages, and ongoing restructuring and shifts into freelance and casual work, which now make up about one-third of the media workforce.
A significant and unacceptable gender pay gap persists above the national industry average.
The report also highlights the upheaval caused to the Australian media ecosystem by the arrival and rise of digital platforms.
‘This storm has been coming for many years,’ Strom said.
‘The media industry has been savaged. Thousands of journalism jobs have been lost. Print and broadcast media have all been hurt: mastheads have closed, networks have been cut back.
‘Local community and regional reporting has, in many places, disappeared altogether. The number of media players have been reduced to a handful of very powerful players, and that power concentrated in the hands of a few reduces the variety of voices and choices for Australians.
‘The News Media Bargaining Code offers a partial remedy to the revenue losses by Australian media, but the big digital platforms have cynically avoided regulation under the Code by promising to do “just enough”.
‘Outside the code they are showing their “just enough” is wholly inadequate with not only small publishers missing out, but the Special Broadcasting Service and The Conversation being excluded.
‘Public interest journalism is a public good. It informs and entertains Australians, ensures the public’s right to know and holds the powerful to account. If we want that to continue, then there is no time to waste to address the many challenges facing those working in journalism and the entire media industry.’
- Leading Australian civil society groups have thrown their weight behind a new global rejection of nuclear power.
The groups, with a membership numbering in the millions across a broad cross-section of the Australian community, have endorsed a global statement and are increasing their efforts to stop the dangerous distraction of domestic nuclear power being used to delay effective climate action.
Key trade union, medical, environmental, climate and First Nation organisations and voices are supporting the initiative.
These include peak state, territory and national trade union bodies, national environment groups the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, Doctors for the Environment, the Smart Energy Council and many more.
The groups have rejected the current push by some conservative politicians and the Mineral Council of Australia to remove long standing Howard-era federal prohibitions on domestic nuclear power, describing nuclear as ‘slow, expensive and dangerous.’
The groups have instead called for clear and urgent action to grow secure jobs in a renewable energy future, declaring that ‘renewables give us the ability to make a just transition for energy sector workers, their families and communities and to provide secure global access to sustainable low carbon electricity.’
Nuclear cannot deliver an energy transition safely, or at the speed and price Australia needs they say.