IFJ condemns Israel’s press card rules as “spiteful discrimination” against Palestinian journalists

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the new accreditation procedure imposed by the Government Press Office (GPO) of Israel on Palestinian journalists. Press cards belonging to Palestinians who work as assistants in foreign networks will not be renewed and, instead, the holders will receive an orange card designating them as escorts to foreign journalists. The cards will only be valid for the territories and will not grant the holders automatic access to Israel.

Daniel Siman, head of the GPO, said the order was necessary “because everyone thinks he’s a journalist, and we have to extend this order to the Palestinians too.” He said that press cards had been “passed around” by the Palestinians and that, in the present security situation, it was “necessary to stick to the rules.”

The IFJ says this amounts to the “pure and simple” victimization of Palestinian journalists. “There is no valid security reason for this action,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. “It is a spiteful act of discrimination.”

Uri Avneri, head of the Gush Shalom movement, described the issuing of the special cards as “part of the war to break the Palestinian entity” and added that it jeopardizes freedom of the press in Israel.

Last month, an IFJ mission to Palestine found “a spiral of decline that threatens to overwhelm respect for press freedom.” The report, Reporting Palestine: Journalism’s Uncertain Future In the Danger Zone, strongly criticises Israel over plans to derecognise Palestinian journalists by banning them from receiving official press accreditation.

“This amounts to a vindictive campaign against reporters who have already suffered heavily in the violence that has followed the launching of a new Intifada last year,” said Aidan White, who visited Jerusalem and the West Bank with Olivier Da Lage, joint author of the document, a member of the French Syndicat Nationale des Journalistes and a journalist with Radio France Internationale in Paris.

The IFJ is the world’s largest journalists’ group with 500,000 members in 106 countries.

IFJ, International Press Center, Residence Palace 155, Rue de la Loi - Bloc C, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium, tel: +322 235 2200 or +322 235 22 01, fax: +322 235 22 19, e-mail: safety@ifj.org, Internet: www.ifj.org