IFJ Calls on Sharon and Abbas to “Set Journalists Free” On Road to Middle East Peace

The International Federation of Journalists today called for the rights and security of journalists to be made a priority in the forthcoming dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. “It is time to set journalists free and to build democracy through dialogue, tolerance and press freedom,” says the IFJ in a letter to both sides.

The IFJ says that new peace talks between the two sides will falter unless “urgent and credible” action is taken to build a new democratic process that supports press freedom and independent journalism.

In a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas the IFJ calls for joint action to:

  • Respect the safety and security of journalists and media staff working in the region;

  • Restore professional recognition and establish accreditation procedures for Palestinian journalists and others working in Israel and the Palestinian areas;

  • Remove restrictions on media staff and foreigners entering the Gaza Strip;

  • Establish an acceptable and independent process for investigation of all incidents of violence in which the victims are journalists or media staff.

  • “The new peace talks give an opportunity for both sides to work together to end violence against media and killing of journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The plight of Palestinian journalists in particular can be ignored no longer. We need a fresh start and a new commitment to build media professionalism and respect for independent journalism in the region.”

    The IFJ appeal comes after its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, last week condemned Israel for requiring people who enter Gaza to sign a statement absolving Israeli military of responsibility for death or injury arising from their visit. Journalists say the procedure is an “unacceptable attempt by the Israeli state to deny its responsibility under international law” and undermines further the safety of media staff.

    The IFJ carried out an investigation into the media crisis in the region last year – already seven journalists and media staff have died in the recent Intifada and scores have been injured – which concluded that joint arrangements should be reached for accreditation of journalists, following the Israeli decision to deny all Palestinian reporters access to the official press card.

    The IFJ has raised, too, the credibility of official Israeli investigations into killings of journalists and says this process must be more transparent and independent.

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    The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries