Gaza - A Gaza Ministry of Health order that limits access to information by journalists and international organizations must be opposed by all means possible, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
The order, circulated to all Gaza hospitals by the Department of Media and Public Relations at the General Administration of Hospitals, prohibits dissemination of information on seven subjects, including suicide, medical errors, homicides and financial matters. Recently, a writer for We Are Not Numbers documented the growing number of suicides and suicide attempts in Gaza, and learned firsthand how difficult it is to get accurate information on what is considered a sensitive subject in a conservative, religious society.
“It is the obligation of governments to protect access by the media—and thus the public—to information on vital issues via several sources,” says Sandra Owen, a Euro-Med Monitor researcher. “The public has the right to know the facts about the state of the health system, as well as the extent of depression in society. Only with this information can strategies to improve quality of life be taken.”
Article 8 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states that, “Everyone has the right to submit to governmental bodies and agencies and organizations concerned with public affairs criticism and proposals for improving their functioning and to draw attention to any aspect of their work that may hinder or impede the promotion, protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“The Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip should respect international laws and agreements, and should guarantee that journalists are able to freely practice their jobs, with unlimited and free access to information from public institutions,” concludes Owen.