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A good time for Grassroots

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Sick and tired of misleading news out of Palestine? Fed up with journalists taking the same-old storylines that just perpetuate the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians alike? Well then head on over to Le Sociale tonight for Growing Grassroots Media in Palestine, a benefit movie screening and dance party to raise money for the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) based in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Founded in 2003 by Israeli, Palestinian, and international journalists who desired to create an independent news source from the Occupied Territories, the IMEMC provides daily coverage of Palestine’s situation in English, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic. The IMEMC also produces a daily radio program called Today in Palestine and a weekly program called This Week in Palestine, which can be heard on CKUT radio, 90.3 FM, on Tuesdays between 7 and 8 a.m. and Thursdays at 11 a.m.

“We see the IMEMC as our sister station in the Middle East,” said Gretchen King, CKUT’s Community News Coordinator. “Given the mainstream media’s shallow coverage of Israel-Palestine, we feel that hearing the unfiltered voices and stories from people on the ground in the occupied territories is more important than ever.”

The IMEMC has provided a space for McGill students to practice journalism from an international hotspot. “We’ve also had a number of volunteers from McGill go to Palestine and work at the IMEMC to gain experience in doing grassroots coverage of the situation,” said King. “There are not very many media centres where you can get that kind of hands-on experience working from a warzone.”

The IMEMC has also faced serious challenges since its formation. According to Aaron Lakoff, a member of CKUT and organizer of tonight’s fundraiser, journalists working in Palestine face violence from both Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

“The Israeli military, the Israeli government, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security forces don’t respect the rights of journalists to work freely in the Occupied Territories (OT),” he said. “A reporter from the IMEMC was beat up very badly by the PA police at a demonstration against Bush’s visit to the OT in late 2007. It’s a very volatile atmosphere.”

According to Lakoff, however, the biggest problem has been a lack of funding. “Palestinians are demonized throughout a large part of the Western world,“ he said. “And if you look at Palestinian civil society, it gets labeled as a terrorist infrastructure. So I think for Palestinians to access international funding, [it] is becoming increasingly difficult.”

King agrees that funding is the most serious challenge that the IMEMC currently faces. “They need funding to keep going,” she said. “And CKUT thinks it’s crucial to support this sister station or else our relationship is not going to continue. [It’s] a relationship that has directly benefitted our volunteers and that our listeners have benefitted from because they get to hear the voices of those that they would otherwise not hear in the mainstream media when it comes to coverage of the ongoing occupation and the continuation of apartheid in Palestine.”

Growing Grassroots in Palestine is tonight at Le Social (1455 Bishop) at 7 p.m. The film Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land will be screened, followed by the beats of local DJs. Admission is $5.