In a 24 January 2002 letter to Minister Tzippi Livni, CPJ expressed deep concern about the Government Press Office’s (GPO) failure to renew the accreditation of Palestinian journalists.
According to a joint statement issued by the bureau chiefs of twenty-nine international media organizations on 15 January, the GPO has failed to renew press accreditations for all but a few of the Palestinian journalists employed by these organizations since 31 December 2001, when the old accreditations expired. The media companies have said that some foreign journalists, mostly camera crews, have also been refused accreditation.
Some Palestinian journalists who did receive their new GPO cards found they had been accredited for only a month. The Foreign Press Association of Israel (FPA) estimated that the new measures affect about seventy journalists working with international media organizations.
The GPO confirmed to CPJ that it has frozen all accreditations for Palestinian journalists until the government makes a final decision on the matter.
Media organizations have complained that the GPO’s failure to accredit Palestinian staffers has hampered their ability to report the news. While GPO cards do not automatically guarantee entry into East Jerusalem or Israel, they greatly facilitate the movement of journalists through military checkpoints and other obstacles to news gathering. Moreover, the card allows journalists access to government events.
GPO director Daniel Seaman has noted that the GPO cards are not travel documents. He argues that the government has a right to regulate press accreditation and that his office is only applying the law and other regulations in determining who receives a card. But the new measures will have a clearly negative impact on news gathering by significantly restricting the ability of both Palestinian journalists and the international media to carry out their normal duties. CPJ fears that these measures may have been taken to curb the work of Palestinian journalists whom Israeli officials have in the past accused of biased reporting.
CPJ understands that the government plans to revisit this issue in the coming week to determine a final policy.