Palestine Press Service: Voice Of Palestinian Resistance With AM-Israel-Violence, Bjt
Dec. 31, 1987
JERUSALEM (AP) _ The small office of the Palestine Press Service, featuring a portrait of Cuban guerrilla Che Guevara, has become a vital source of news on fast- breaking events in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It is from here that a voice over the phone, saying ''This is the Palestine Press - we have a news bulletin for you,'' may bring first word of a violent demonstration, a firebomb attack, or the shooting of an Arab protester.
The Arab-owned press service gets its information from a network of reporters, free-lancers, volunteers and even taxi drivers in the occupied territories.
There are a half-dozen Arabic daily newspapers in east Jerusalem and a smattering of weeklies, but in the absence of Arab-run radio stations in the occupied lands, the press service is virtually the only source of up-to-the- minute news.
''Our telephone tips are not to be taken for granted,'' said managing editor Elias M. Zananiri. ''We often have no time to doublecheck because they concern hot events. If it comes from our reporters, we tend to go ahead.''
''But over the years, we managed to establish our credibility,'' said Zananiri, speaking in an interview at his office on Salah Al-Din street, the main shopping district in Arab east Jerusalem.
The Palestine Press Service regards itself as an organ of the Palestine nationalist movement, reflecting the opinion of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
For a monthly fee of several hundred dollars, PPS provides telex news services to some Western embassies and about 25 foreign news organizations. About 50 foreign journalists who have no telex machines at their offices come to the PPS for news bulletins, Zananiri said.
The agency publishes the weekly magazine Al Awdah in English and Arabic.
Israeli authorities clamped the lid on the PPS several years after its establishment late in 1977 by Raimonda Tawil, a Palestinian attorney and political activist.
In 1982, a PPS daily newsletter was banned. The Al Awdah magazine cannot be distributed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip because the publishers have been unable to get a permit from Israeli authorites.
In November, the army ordered Radwan Abu Ayyash, editor of the Al Awdah Arabic version and head of the Arab Journalists Association, jailed for six months without trial under an administrative detention order.
An Israeli army source alleged at the time that Abu Ayyash was being paid by the Fatah branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization and had carried out activities ''that have nothing to do with journalism.''
''This was aimed not only at our office but at the freedom of expression in general. It was a blow to the whole Palestinian press,'' Zananiri said.
Two months ago, the PPS' telex service was subjected to military censorship.
''We are not allowed, for example, to use the word 'revolt' to describe recent events in the territories,'' said Ibrahim Karaeen, a co-owner of the press service. ''But these aren't Western-style riots, this is a national uprising.''
''We also have a problem of access,'' Zananiri said. ''Arab reporters can be detained if they cover a demonstration, and the army would say they took part in it.''
The agency reflects a Palestinian point of view and is usually hours ahead of the Israeli army in reporting on events. It regularly beats Israel's state and army radios.
Its sources include ''people who call us voluntarily or taxi drivers who drive from one Palestinian village to another,'' Zananiri said. But he noted that such information tends to become distorted by rumors.
Recent Arab riots, for example, were sparked by rumors that the death of four Arabs struck by an Israeli military truck Dec. 8 was a deliberate act to avenge the stabbing death of an Israeli businessman.
''A couple of days ago, I got an anonymous phone call, and this person told me that two people were shot dead by Israeli troops in Gaza City,'' Zananiri said.
''I ordered our reporter to check,'' he continued, ''and he found out that the sound of shooting came from fireworks that some children decided to put inside the tires they set ablaze.''