Jerusalem24 – The International media outlet, Agence France-Presse (AFP), dismissed Nasser Abu Bakr from his role as a correspondent for the agency after 20 years of being employed by them. The agency alleges that Abu Bakr was dismissed for “professional reasons,” while Abu Bakr claims that his dismissal was due to a campaign that has been ongoing against him for the past five years when he was elected as the head of the Palestinian Journalism Syndicate (PJS).
Abu Bakr, who was unavailable for comment, released a statement from the PJS saying “The Syndicate, which previously followed up the harassment Abu Bakr is subjected to in his professional work, considered that this decision came as a result of the submission of The French News Agency in Jerusalem to the pressures of the Israeli occupation, and the successive campaigns of incitement against Nasser Abu Bakr.” Abu Bakr says that this occurred after he began calls for prosecuting Israeli leaders and bringing them to international criminal courts for attacks against Palestinian journalists, in addition to a campaign that led to the withdrawal of the Israeli Journalist’s membership from the International Federation of Journalists.
The PSJ affirmed that it is taking a series of steps against the AFP and its policies. In the statement they called on the Palestinian Ministry of Information to withdraw the accreditation of the director of the agency’s office in Ramallah, and a boycott of his organization.
Through the course of working on the story, Jerusalem24 attempted to contact the AFP for a statement regarding Abu Bakr’s claims. However, the AFP office in Jerusalem stated that they had no comment regarding the dismissal of the Abu Bakr. Instead, on Wednesday night Jerusalem24 found out they released a short statement in response:
AFP did not submit to any pressure from the Israeli or Palestinian authorities in its decision to dismiss journalist Nasser Abu Bakr
To say that Agence France-Presse has been subjected to external pressure is a serious and unacceptable affront to the reputation of the agency, whose independence is enshrined in its statutes.
Agence France-Presse decided to terminate Nasser Abu Bakr’s service for purely professional reasons, after several months of contact with him, which did not lead to any result.
AFP regrets Abu Bakr’s decision to launch a campaign to discredit the agency, and considers some of what has been circulated as unacceptable incitement to violence against its employees, which is punishable by Palestinian law.
-Agence France-Presse Jerusalem Bureau
In a rebuttal to AFP’s brief statement, the PSJ released a statement the following day, citing that they have documents that prove there have been attempts over several years to restrict Abu Bakr’s union work and his right to practice it. Including an attempt by AFP to prevent Abu Bakr from participating in the International Federation of Journalist’s Conference which was held in France. The PSJ also took offense to the AFP’s statements that they are inciting to violence, and that the only violence that exists is the targeting of Palestinian journalists by the Israeli military and its occupation; citing that the PSJ and its members are exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression that is guaranteed by all international laws.
The Syndicate clarified that Nasser has never had any actions taken against him for any professional reason, nor has he violated his journalistic integrity. They also stated that the syndicate’s lawyer has documents that prove the AFP was praising and thanking Nasser for his work over the course of twenty years. The Syndicate also stated that it is informing the International Federation of all the details and documents that prove their claims against the AFP.
In a conclusion of its statement, the PSJ said they will head to the AFP’s presidency in Paris, asking it to form a committee with the International Federation as well as French Unions; confident that they have all the documents and information to prove the validity of what they have said.
Abu Bakr’s case comes after news if other media outlets taking measures regarding coverage of Palestinian issues, and calls for more nuanced and fair reporting. Ranging from an incident involving the German Deutsche Welle’s “Reporting Guide,” that we have covered in mid-May, as well as the firing of American journalist Emily Wilder and an open letter calling on the Canadian CBC regarding its coverage of Palestine; a story we have also covered in May.