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FPA Statements 2003

November 18, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association notes with concern that numerous journalists were prevented from entering Bethlehem today. The decision to keep journalists out without declaring the area a closed military zone appears aimed at avoiding criticism over an explicit ban – but it is no less objectionable. We call on the IDF to keep Bethlehem open to journalists’ access.

November 11, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The FPA welcomes the decision to suspend the new GPO regulations which would have required all journalists to undergo Shin Bet security checks and added layers of eedless bureaucracy and complication to the accreditation process.

We especially welcome the undertaking by the Prime Minister’s media advisor that any future changes will be taken only after consultation and agreement with the local and foreign media.

November 3, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The FPA is extremely concerned about the new GPO regulations that require foreign correspondents to undergo security scrutiny by the Shin Bet.

While we fully appreciate Israel’s security problems there is no evidence that genuine journalists pose a risk.

The new policy extends the problem to the entire foreign media and gives the authorities unreasonable veto power over who can serve as a foreign correspondent.  It constitutes an utter violation of freedom of the press and the dramatic reversal of the openness that has prevailed in Israel for decades

The new regulations which were announced without consultation appear to be another step in a 2-year campaign to harass and intimidate the foreign press. We call on the government to reconsider its position.

August 22, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

In view of the new instructions issued by the Palestinian Authority to local and foreign media not to conduct interviews with Islamic leaders, the Foreign Press Association strongly protests these actions for being a gross violation of freedom of  the press.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms threats that were made yesterday (Thursday) against some of our members by representatives of the PA over the new instructions and demand the officials responsible be reprimanded.

 Such actions can only harm the good relations between the PA and the media.

June 3, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association is disturbed at the reports that a foreign journalist may have unknowingly transported the Mike’s Place bombers through the Erez crossing. We call on our members, and all foreign media, to refrain from transporting anyone who is not a known journalist. Beyond the obvious dangers, such actions could serve as a pretext to justify restrictions on the free movement of journalists and the use of  press vehicles.

We are also disturbed by Israeli officials’ use of these latest allegations to cast aspersion on foreign journalists in general and to again air spurious charges of bias in favor of the Palestinians.

Most foreign journalists here are doing everything possible to report on the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a balanced manner.

We wish to note that the person mentioned is not an FPA member and not permanently stationed in this region.

May 12, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association protests the sweeping closure imposed on the Gaza Strip and demands the right of journalists to enter and leave this territory be immediately reinstated.

Israel has a responsibility to enable media coverage of this territory, which is home to more than one million civilians. The fact that the restrictions that have been suddenly imposed are open-ended and that no allowance whatsoever has been made for journalists’ entry and exit is extremely disturbing and suggests an utter disregard for basic press freedoms.

May 3, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association calls for an immediate investigation into the killing of British video journalist James Miller last night near Rafah.

We are deeply concerned over the recent increase in the killing and wounding of noncombatants by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza, and call on the military to address this terrible problem seriously and not sweep it under the rug with general  statements about the dangers inherent in war zones.

The military has a duty to avoid harming non-combatants. Yet in recent weeks we have seen the killings of two journalists working for foreign outlets.

We are still waiting to hear results of the investigation of the April 19 killing in Nablus of APTN’s Nazeh Darwazeh, shot in the head, apparently by an Israeli soldier, while wearing bright clothing that clearly identified him as a journalist.

In Friday’s case, witnesses say Miller and two colleagues were filming and waving a white flag as a tank opened fire. If true, that would again suggest reckless behavior on the part of the troops who opened fire.

April 19, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The FPA is shocked at the killing today of APTN cameraman Nazeh Darwazeh, apparently by an Israeli soldier and demands a full and swift investigation.

The IDF’s assertion that journalists in danger zones knowingly risk their lives is not an acceptable explanation. It is the duty of the press to be where events are happening, and it is the obligation of the IDF to preserve the lives of journalists. Darwazeh was wearing a yellow vest bearing the inscription “Press” and thus clearly identified as a journalist. He is the fourth journalist killed in the West Bank within a year. The previous investigations have come up short of finding and punishing those responsible.

In parallel the harassment of foreign journalists at Ben Gurion Airport continues. 

On Thursday, April 16th, Arnaud Muller and Harold Bellanger from the French TV network Canal Plus were detained upon their arrival from France and threatened with deportation despite the fact that they had valid French passports and official French press cards. They were freed and allowed to enter the country on a 10-day visa, only after the intervention of the French Embassy and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The FPA calls upon the Israeli government to ensure the harassment at the airport ends.

April 7, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association views with concern the removal of the BBC World Service from Israeli cable TV. Particularly at this time, there is importance to maintaining Israelis’ access to the widest diversity of news sources. The BBC is one of the world’s leading news broadcasters, and we call on the Israeli cable companies to bring it back. 

January 6, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The FPA calls on the Palestinian Authority to immediately release Saifeddin Shahin, Gaza correspondent of Al-Jazeera, who, from all indications, was arrested for doing his job as a journalist. 

We call on the PA to respect the freedom of the press. 

January 1, 2003
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

Killing the Messenger 

Exactly one year ago, on January 1st, 2002, the Government Press Office launched a series of aggressive steps whose result – and probable aim – was a serious disruption of news coverage in the West Bank and Gaza. This is our simple response to the self-righteous article “How have we sinned against the foreign media?” by GPO Director Daniel Seaman (Yediot Aharonot, 30.12.2002). 

Wherever the international media is found, it employs locals and foreigners, in accordance with its needs, and usually with minimal interference from authorities that respect the freedom of the press. And so it has been here. The foreign media employs many Israelis in various professions as well as foreigners from all over the world, and many Palestinians in the territories. The highest standard of fair and balanced reporting applies to all – and mostly, despite the tremendous complexities of the situation, they are attained. 

When Mr. Seaman cancelled the press accreditations of Palestinians working for the foreign media – reporters, photographers and television crews – his bizarre explanation was that Israeli accreditation was not needed because the territories are akin to a foreign country. Since then the IDF has taken over most West Bank towns, its soldiers are everywhere, and they continue in all seriousness to demand of the Palestinians the same GPO cards that are no longer being issued.  When the cards are not produced the result is almost always intereference and on occasion beatings, arrests, and confiscation of equipment and materials. About 10 months ago, following negotiations with Mr. Seaman and Minister Zippi Livni, agreement was reached to issue “territories-only” GPO cards immediately to a limited number of essential employees. Since then Mr. Seaman has shamefully reneged on his explicit written promise to this effect, and nothing has moved. He has, in the meantime, revised his explanations and now accuses the foreign media’s Palestinian staffers, en masse, of being dangerous agents of the Palestinian Authority.

In addition, the GPO decided to change the system regarding foreign television crews and to obligate these few dozen people to obtain work permits from the Labor Ministry. The applications have been submitted, yet in the year that has passed not a single one has been approved – because the Labor Department requires of the applicants GPO recommendations which the GPO refuses to provide. Meanwhile, the TV crews are in a vulnerable legal limbo.

The foreign television crews are absolutely essential for work in the territories and often also in neighboring Arab lands, and the attempt to invalidate their status raises concerns. Strangely, the GPO presents the issue as stemming from concerns for the livelihood of Israeli crews.  But any reasonable person would hesitate to send Israeli crews to work in the West Bank and Gazan towns in the present time of strife – and the IDF itself often prevents this out of concern for Israelis’ lives. The Palestinians, as made clear, are not allowed to work. “Who, then, is left?” we asked Mr. Seaman, in despair. “It really is a problem,” he replied, amused. 

It is hardly amusing when the representatives of the foreign media and their head offices are convinced that Israel is crudely and transparently attempting to hinder news coverage.  Perhaps one of our colleagues suggested to Mr. Seaman that his tactics are doing Israel’s image no good; that must be the origin of his false accusations that the foreign media has threatened to “condemn and slander” Israel. In his article, he incites against an entire community by attacking imagined foreign journalists who justify terrorism and oppress the State of Israel.

There are many conflict zones around the globe, and balanced reporting often satisfies neither side. It can be popular to agitate against the foreign press. A responsible government doesn’t operate this way. Israel didn’t do it in the past.

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