Jerusalem Journalists Propose Forum to Confront Crisis Facing Israeli and Palestinian Media Staff

Israeli journalists have spoken out against restrictions on freedom of movement facing reporters in Palestine and propose a joint forum with Palestinian colleagues to deal with a range of problems facing media and journalists in the region.

In a meeting with a delegation from the International Federation of Journalists in Jerusalem last week leaders of the Jerusalem Association of Journalists proposed setting up a regional forum to encourage joint action by Palestinian and Israeli journalists on issues such as safety and freedom of movement. They also suggest setting up a hotline to help journalists in trouble.

"This would be a major step forward for journalists," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Joint action by Israeli and Palestinian journalists to tackle problems both groups face -- such as restrictions on freedom of movement - will strengthen efforts to remove obstacles to the exercise of journalism."

Palestinian journalists say that restrictions on movement between Gaza and the West Bank are proving an obstacle to organising a conference of their syndicate.

Haim Shibi, Head of the Jerusalem Association of Journalists Committee on foreign relations, said: "We recognise the problems. It is clearly unacceptable that Palestinian journalists are unable to meet to organise themselves. Israel should allow journalists to move freely and all journalists, both Palestinian and Israeli, should be able to carry out their professional duties in safety and without fear or intimidation. That is a challenge, too, for the Palestinian Authority."

The meeting between the IFJ and the Jerusalem colleagues covered concerns over stalled negotiations with employers on a new collective agreement. Journalists are under pressure because of declining working conditions, falling media quality and attacks on public broadcasting. It was also agreed to strengthen links between the National Federation of Israel Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists.

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The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide