The International Federation of Journalists today condemned plans by Israel to hand over control of press accreditation to the security service from January 1st 2004.
“When it comes to the press it now seems that Israel has the characteristic of a police state. First, the Palestinian journalists are humiliated and derecognised, and now all journalists are regarded as terrorist suspects; it is a long way from any recognisable democratic process for granting press accreditation,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ.
Although the final decision on the accreditation will rest with the Government Press Office (GPO) Israel has made clear that the recommendations of the security service Shin Bet will be followed. As a result, says the IFJ, the rights of journalists will rest in the hand of the security service.
The GPO announced that as of January 1st journalists wanting accreditation in Israel will have to provide a sworn statement to justify their application and will be subject to verification by the security services.
“The traditional framework for accrediting journalists has been taken out of the hand of information services and handed over to the military”, says White. “The net result will be that the Israeli authorities will be hand-picking the journalists allowed to cover their activities. This will inevitably lead to discrimination against critical and independent journalists.”
The IFJ says that the Israeli security services are already acting with impunity dealing with journalists. “In the last couple of years we have had at least two cases where journalists have been shot dead by Israeli troops and no acceptable explanation has been given for these deaths,” says the IFJ General Secretary.
“What is being proposed is tantamount to the press control of a totalitarian state and is completely unacceptable. Assurances given by the Israeli authorities that only people that are a security risk will be affected by the new rules are disingenuous,” says Aidan White. “Once these rules are in place political and military interest will take over and that is a disaster for the press.”
The IFJ says that the latest move will destroy the credibility of Israel commitment to independent and free journalism. Press accreditation matters should be established in consultation with press organisations and press groups and should not be imposed by authorities.
The IFJ has sent a letter protesting over these new procedures to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries