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FPA Statements 2016

October 10, 2016
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

During an Israeli arrest raid Sunday in the West Bank village of al-Ram, Associated Press photographer Majdi Mohammed was hit by a rubber-coated bullet fired by Israeli forces from very close range. Majdi had been ordered to leave the scene and was walking away when he was shot in his upper back.

We have reason to believe that this shooting was intentional. The border policeman who we believe fired the bullet had shouted and cursed at Majdi moments before the shooting. Majdi was shot from a distance of just 10 meters, and the bullet struck him in an area that was not covered by his protective vest. Majdi’s vest clearly identified him as “press,” and he was nowhere near the stone-throwing protesters who were clashing with the forces at the time.

This is just the latest in a string of attacks by Israeli border police on journalists. Yet our repeated calls for Israel to uphold its commitment to honor press freedom and safety have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears.

We hope that Israel will finally conduct a serious investigation and take appropriate disciplinary action. Only when Israel begins to hold its security forces accountable for abusing journalists will this deplorable behavior change. 

September 27, 2016
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

On Tuesday morning, a GPO-accredited Associated Press TV producer was asked to remove an undergarment after a full body search during a routine security check at the prime minister’s office for the weekly Cabinet meeting. This is the latest in a long line of intrusive and inappropriate body checks against Arab Israeli journalists by the prime minister’s security staff. 

The Foreign Press Association condemns this act of racial profiling, which not only runs counter to Israel’s democratic ideals but makes a mockery of the accreditation process and raises deep questions about the prime minister’s repeated claims that he is committed to equality for all of Israel’s citizens.

We call on the Prime Minister’s Office to apologize for this inappropriate treatment and halt this behavior immediately.

August 22, 2016
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

 The Foreign Press Association is concerned about restrictions being imposed by Hamas officials on the work of foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip.

Several of our members have complained of intrusive questioning on entry and when applying for residence permits. In a few cases, foreign reporters have been refused permits, given permits of untenably brief duration, or told their permits were conditional on not working with specific Palestinian colleagues.

We appreciate Hamas officials’ readiness to discuss these issues at a recent meeting with FPA representatives. We urge them to uphold their stated commitment to allowing the foreign press to work freely in Gaza, where until recently reporters were allowed to work with relatively few restrictions. We hope they will follow through on their pledges to grant one-year entry permits to foreign journalists, which would be an important step in the right direction.

 We remind FPA members to exercise caution when working in Gaza because of the volatile security environment there.

May 19, 2016
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association is disturbed and disappointed to hear once again that a photographer covering an event today with the Prime Minister was asked to take part in a humiliating security check before being allowed to attend.  The individual, a long-standing and well respected journalist with the European Press photo Agency, Atef Safadi, was assigned to take pool photographs of the meeting between French and Israeli Prime Ministers today.  The EPA bureau chief was asked by the Prime Minister’s security detail to remove his clothing before a meeting with the French Prime Minister.  He refused. As a result there was no independent journalistic access for the foreign media and the agencies refused to use photos released by the Government Press Office because of this restriction. The FPA again calls on security agencies to respect the right of journalists at such events, who already hold Israeli government press accreditation, to do their work without demanding that they endure intimate and humiliating security inspections. May 23rd 2016

On Thursday, FPA member Heidi Levine, a photographer for SIPA Press, was detained by Hamas security men for more than three hours before she was allowed to leave Gaza. As she exited, Hamas security told her she was banned from the territory, claiming her work “reflects badly on Gaza.” They provided no examples of the work that allegedly upset them.

The FPA strongly condemns the thuggish behavior of the Hamas security and the implication that Hamas should judge what is or isn’t acceptable coverage of Gaza. Unfortunately, this incident is not isolated. A number of FPA members have reported being forced to undergo uncomfortable questioning by Hamas security forces while entering or exiting Gaza in recent months.  

We call on Hamas to end these practices immediately and urge the group to give journalists unfettered access in and out of Gaza.

February 16, 2016
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association is deeply disturbed by demands from Hamas in Gaza that news organizations with armoured cars in the territory pay an excessive fee to register them for use.

In the past, authorities in Gaza applied the same fee for armoured cars as they do for other vehicles with the same size and type of engine, namely 2,100 shekels a year for a diesel vehicle. Hamas officials are now impounding foreign news organisations’ armoured cars and demanding 4,000 shekels a year.
In July last year, representatives from the FPA met with Hamas officials in Gaza, including the deputy minister for transport, and it was agreed that the usual 2,100 shekel fee would be applied, with the deputy minister citing the PA’s own Transport Ministry legal guidelines. That agreement is not being respected.

We call on the Hamas authorities to respect their own laws and previous commitments. News organizations are prepared to pay the legal fee to operate vehicles on Gaza’s roads, but will not submit to excessive fees that appear to have no basis in law.

The FPA protests in the strongest possible terms the detention today by Israeli border police of William Booth, the Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, and Sufian Taha, the paper’s West Bank correspondent.

Shortly after noon, the two were interviewing Palestinian and Jewish residents of Jerusalem at Damascus Gate, along with Washington Post correspondent Ruth Eglash. When Booth and Taha tried to interview some high-school students on the steps opposite the gate, police waved them away. They then retreated to interview the teenagers under a tree.

Shortly after, border police waved the two journalists over and asked them for their IDs. They presented their Government Press Office cards as identification, but these were waved away and they were asked for official identity documents.

Although the journalists made it very clear that they were reporting a story for the Washington Post, police took them to a nearby police station, where they were held for about 40 minutes, then released. When they asked police why they had been held, police said they had suspected the journalists of “inciting” Palestinians.

The FPA protests this absurd accusation against a respected international news outlet, as well as the detention, however brief, of an accredited foreign journalist and his Palestinian colleague.

We note that it comes in the context of heavy-handed tactics – including violent attacks – deployed in recent months by border police against foreign journalists and their Palestinian co-workers covering the unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

We do not think it is coincidental that a baseless accusation of “incitement” was made at a time when blanket accusations of bias are being levelled against the foreign press by Israeli officials and commentators.

We furthermore urge Israeli police and other authorities to recognise their own government-issued GPO cards and allow those holding them to work without hindrance.

February 8, 2016
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

Submission by the Foreign Press Association to a hearing of the Knesset “sub-committee on legal warfare with respect to foreign media coverage – coverage which in the long-term erodes the legitimacy of (Israel’s) fight against terrorism”

  1. May we state first that we disagree with the premise of the hearing – it presupposes two things: that the foreign media are biased and that that supposed bias undermines Israel’s ability to quell terrorist attacks. We do not agree that the foreign media are biased, and the legitimacy of Israel’s campaign against terrorism is entirely determined by how Israel conducts that campaign. It has nothing to do with the foreign media. 
  2. The foreign press/media corps in Israel and the Palestinian territories is made up of several hundred professional print, TV and photo journalists, around 400 of whom are members of the Foreign Press Association, all of whom have many years of experience in this region and around the world. 
  3. In order to work in Israel and the Palestinian territories, all members of the foreign press must apply for credentials issued by the Government Press Office. To receive the accreditation, members of the press must have a valid visa to work in the country and must sign a form agreeing to submit to Israeli government censorship when required.  
  4. This gives the Israeli government a high level of influence – it can revoke credentials if it has a problem with coverage, can limit the movement of foreign media into Gaza and around the occupied West Bank, thereby restricting coverage, and can place information under gag order to prevent it being published. 
  5. If anyone in Israel believes a libel has been committed, there are libel laws on the statute books and a case can be brought before the courts.
  6. The Israeli government has many press officers and spokespeople dealing with the foreign media – whether in the prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry, government departments or the Israeli military – who are welcome to contact journalists to complain about coverage or put their side and they very often do.
  7. There are non-government, pro-Israel media monitoring groups, such as CAMERA and Honest Reporting, that try to find errors or perceived bias in the foreign media’s coverage and make direct contact with senior editors to request corrections or changes. These groups are very active and foreign media editors take very seriously any errors brought to their attention. Corrections are frequently issued.
  8. In countries such as the United Kingdom there is a Press Complaints Commission which Israel also has recourse to if it feels there is biased coverage against it. 
  9. While the foreign media tries to act with professionalism and balance, the Israeli Foreign Ministry took it upon itself last year to issue a YouTube video suggesting the foreign media were biased, ignorant and witless. After the blatant inaccuracy and imbalance of the video were pointed out, the Foreign Ministry withdrew it immediately.
  10. The principal – although by no means the only – story the foreign media is covering in this region is the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. As with any conflict, there are at least two sides. The foreign media, like all media should, does its utmost to keep that in mind, never taking one side over the other or listening to one account exclusively – we report on both sides and try to reflect the complexity of the conflict to an international audience.
  11. During the last four months of violence, repeated concerns have been raised by international leaders – including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, the EU’s Federica Mogherini and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – about Israel’s use of force to quell Palestinian attacks, with all of them urging proportionality and restraint. They have also expressed concerns about vigilantism by Israeli citizens after a call to arms by Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat and other municipal leaders and the shooting/beating to death of an innocent Eritrean by Israelis at the bus station in Beer Sheva. Their comments and concerns have been covered widely by the Israeli and foreign media. The media is the messenger; the criticism has come from world leaders.     
  12. There are cases in which headlines in the international media have been poorly chosen and failed to accurately reflect developments on the ground. These have been pointed out and corrected as rapidly as possible. Mistakes are made in all professions. Isolated mistakes – and given the vast coverage of this story, they are extremely isolated – do not constitute institutional bias. It should also be pointed out that headlines are never the full story and are usually not written by journalists on the ground, but by editors sitting in New York, London or other headquarters. 
  13. Efforts to clamp down on the media, including sweeping allegations of media bias, state censorship and the detaining of members of the press, are the sort of actions usually associated with authoritarian governments in places such as Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia. It is unbecoming of a country like Israel, which likes to describe itself as the only democracy in the Middle East.
  14. The Foreign Press Association makes every effort to meet with the prime minister’s office, the Foreign Ministry, the Israeli Defense Forces and other departments to discuss its activities and ensure the foreign media in Israel and the Palestinian territories are able to work freely and safely. 
  15. Our biggest concern is that the IDF often does not respond to requests to meet and has only taken action in cases of military aggression/harassment of journalists when there is video or photographic evidence, and not always then.    
  16. A free and open media is the bedrock of a democratic society.  Parliamentary sub-committee hearings that start from the premise that the foreign media is biased tend to look like poorly conceived witch-hunts.
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