Israel slammed for Violating Freedom of Press
Media Groups Slam Israel for Violating Freedom of Press
Israeli Shin Bet to Scrutinize All Journalists Starting 1/1
In another move seen as violating freedom of the press, Israel is to obligate all journalists seeking government accreditation to undergo a series of stringent scrutiny from the Shin Bet security agency, that will effectively see a significant reduction of issued press cards.
The decision, which was announced on Monday by Daniel Seaman, the director of Israel’s Press Office, was immediately censured by Israeli as well as foreign media organizations.
The Foreign Press Association (FPA) based in London condemned the new policy as “an utter violation of freedom of the press” as it gives Israeli authorities “unreasonable veto power” over who can work as a foreign correspondent.
Up until now, only Palestinian journalists have had to undergo checks by the Shin Bet, Seaman said. The new policy, however, will also see foreigners undergo a “security check”, although not as thorough as that given to Palestinians, he added.
Previously, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) lashed out against Israel for using extraordinary measures to thwart reporters covering its military incursion into the occupied Palestinian territory and named the West Bank as the worst place to be a journalist.
The new policy, which will come into effect as of January 01, also requires journalists to produce a lawyer’s affidavit and an annual fee of $23 for the card, which was previously free.
Shortly after the Palestinian Intifada for independence erupted three years ago, the Israeli press office stopped issuing cards to Palestinian journalists, in spite of the fact that many work for foreign media outlets.
The FPA said the Shin Bet’s blacklisting of Palestinian journalists showed there was “almost no transparency” in the security service while it slammed the policy as “another step in a two-year campaign to harass and intimidate the foreign press.”
The Government Press Office (GPO) is responsible for overseeing all issues related to both Israeli and foreign journalists, including helping arranging visas where necessary, distributing information about press conferences as well as issuing credentials.
Seaman said that the press office will take the Shin Bet’s assessment on each journalist into account and based on whether they pose a “security threat” or not. The press office will also decide whether journalists can hold on to the credentials.
Moreover, he added that he hoped the new restrictions imposed on journalists would reduce the number of press cards issued from the present 15,000.
The Israeli Press Association, which represents domestic journalists, voiced fears that the new policy will prevent Arab Israelis from receiving credentials.
Director Yaron Enosh told the Associated Press the new demands do not seem to be “professional.”