The International Federation of Journalists today called on Palestinian leaders to condemn Arab militants who may pose as journalists as a cover for terrorist activity.
The IFJ warning comes after reports yesterday that a belt containing explosives was found in a factory after an industrial worker, who allegedly claimed he was a journalist, later admitted smuggling explosives.
"This report suggests that people engaged in terrorist actions are ready to use media business as a cover for their work," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is a shocking and deplorable development that could undermine legitimate journalism and puts all reporters at risk in the region."
The IFJ is asking Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to condemn this incident and to put pressure on Palestinian groups to oppose any action which compromises the status of independent observers such as journalists and humanitarian personnel.
The IFJ statement follows the report in today's Jerusalem Post about a Palestinian arrested on the border of the Gaza Strip. The occupants in his car, which had "Press" markings were detained by security forces after a grenade was found in the car. One of the detainees claimed he was a journalist, but later told investigators he works in the industrial zone and had hidden a belt with explosives, planning to latter smuggle it across the Green Line into Israel.
"Over the past months we have seen unprecedented levels of persecution of Palestinian journalists by the Israeli authorities," said Aidan White, "but their plight will only get worse if their status is compromised by ruthless political activists." The IFJ and its affiliate in the region the Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists oppose any actions that endanger the lives of media staff or damage the credibility of media.
The IFJ has strongly opposed policies put in place by the Israeli authorities, which deny the right to work to Palestinian journalists by preventing their mobility (even within the Palestinian Territories), by not banning them from receiving press accreditation and by harassing them.
"We condemn without reservation all sides when they use journalism as weapons in the conflict," said Aidan White, "there will be no peace unless democracy and human rights are respected."