IFJ Welcomes Israeli Court Ban On “Professional Apartheid” Against Palestinian Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists has welcomed the Israeli High Court of Justice decision yesterday to overturn actions by the Israeli Government press office that discriminate against Palestinian journalists applying for official press cards.

Palestinian journalists who hold Israeli work permits must be eligible for Government Press Office press cards, say the judges, although they also warn that the permits would be dependent on the results of a security check.

“This is a step towards ending an unacceptable and appalling system of professional apartheid that has been imposed by Israel,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “All Palestinian journalists, even those without work permits, should be allowed to travel freely to do their work with the right to obtain the official press card.”

The court was petitioned by the Reuters news agency and the Al-Jazeera television station after Palestinian journalists employed by both news outlets were refused access to the Israeli press card by the Government Press Office over the last three years.

The government defended its refusal to grant press cards, saying it feared Israeli officials could be harmed during press conferences or in sensitive places that allow easy access to holders of press cards. In addition, GPO bureau chief Daniel Seaman had said that "beyond security concerns, it is illogical to grant Palestinian residents press cards which will be abused by the other side in the battle for public opinion."

In the unanimous decision three justices said "journalism, as an occupation, does not require any licensing, and granting press cards is part of the protected civil interest of a free press that serves truth, the democratic process and civil stability, etc."

The IFJ says that the court decision acknowledges its own findings that the security risk associated with granting press cards is "exaggerated and not proven."

“Journalists are not a security threat – but they have enemies because the truth often hurts,” said White. “Now is the time to recognise the professional rights of Palestinian journalists and to uphold the values of press freedom.”

The IFJ issued a report two years ago on the crisis facing Palestinian reporters who have been banned from receiving GPO press cards and who are identified as “potential terrorists” rather than media professionals. The IFJ says the accreditation of Palestinian journalists should be made a joint responsibility of both Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

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