Reporters play 'cat and mouse' with Israeli censors

Sky News has provoked an angry response from the Israeli military censor over an incident in which it showed footage of an Israeli town being bombed.

The Israeli complaint came after a live report by Jeremy Thomson and Martin Stanford from a rooftop position in Haifa at a time when Hezbollah was firing Katyusha rockets into the town.

Sky News Middle East correspondent Emma Hurd told Press Gazette: "The reality is that if you are live on air when it is happening, of course you are going to show some element of it. We are certainly not going to switch our cameras off when that happens — it's part of live news coverage."

The rooftop position enabled viewers to see rockets coming in, which contravened Israeli censorship rules, which prohibit live shots over a city or a town showing the positions where the rockets are landing.

Hurd said that Sky received "several angry phone calls" from the Israelis about their coverage.

At the start of the conflict, American broadcaster CBS reported that Israel's chief military censor, Col. Sima Vaknin- Gil, had told reporters that she had significant influence over journalists.

She said: "I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything."

As a result of the censorship rules, live broadcasters such as Sky News face the challenge of being moved on by the Israeli military when reporting live action from the northern border.

Hurd said: "It appears to be something of a game of cat and mouse. We set up, we get a good position, we manage to stay there for a couple of hours and then the Israelis find us and move us on.

"This is the challenge in terms of the war coverage on this side. There are constantly new areas being declared ‘closed military zones' — in fact, we are moving now because we've just been told we have to leave.

"We are operating under a certain applies to live broadcasting to some extent."

Hurd said that it was not an "incredible burden" as there were ways of reporting stories effectively while still abiding by the censorship rules.

While much of the media has been focused on the dangers faced by journalists in Lebanon, only last weekend Yuval Azulay, an Israeli journalist for the Har'aretz newspaper was hit by a large piece of shrapnel.

ITN's John Irvine, who has been in Israel for the past week, and was also the broadcaster's Middle East correspondent for three years, said for journalists in Israel the incoming fire was a constant worry.

He said: "It is always in the back of your mind that you could lose the lottery on these missiles coming in, because certainly if a Katusyha landed close enough to you, it could certainly kill a few people."

 

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