Israel’s refusal to allow foreign journalists into Gaza is placing heightened pressure on local Palestinian reporters to supply news, the Foreign Press Association in Jersualem has warned.
Foreign journalists are still being denied access to Gaza after a deal allowing selected numbers of the foreign media into the territory fell through.
Israel has been restricting media access to the Gaza strip since the ceasefire with Hamas ended on 4 November, officially stating that it is too dangerous for reporters to be allowed in.
The Foreign Press Association has called the blockade “an unprecedented restriction of press freedom” and mounted a legal challenge against it.
“Never before have journalists been prevented from doing their work in this way,” the group said.
A compromise allowing up to eight foreign journalists into the territory was reached last week – but Israel abandoned the agreement on Tuesday.
A spokesman from the Israeli embassy in London told Press Gazette: “Gaza is a warzone and so it is very difficult to allow people who are not soldiers in.
“Their presence might endanger both themselves and our operations there.”
The Israeli government has said it believes foreign journalists are biased in their reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Danny Seaman, head of the government press office, said foreign journalists were “unprofessional” and take “questionable reports at face value”.
Ernest Sagaga, human rights and information officer for the International Federation of Journalists told Press Gazette that he hoped Israel would recognise the need for the international community to hear about the situation in Gaza.
He said the Israelis were, in effect, trying to censor the news.
“Journalists need to be there because there is a conflict going on which needs to be reported accurately and objectively,” he said.
“They are not there to make stuff up but unfortunately Israel doesn’t see it like that,” he said.
He added that blocking foreign journalists from reporting the conflict was worsening the situation for local reporters.
He said: “Palestinian journalists are very much in demand to supply news and that makes them vulnerable as they are reporting from high-risk locations that regularly come under fire.”
The IFJ has claimed that Israelis are targeting Palestinian reporters, attacking vehicles with ‘Press’or ‘TV’markings. On 28 December the offices of Al Asqa Television were bombed by Israeli fighter planes.
One cameraman has been injured and the Palestine Journalists Syndicate has reported the arrest of Khezr Shanin, a reporter for Al-Alam, by Israeli military forces.
The deal between Israel and the FPA – which has since fallen through – allowed Israel to vet the six journalists chosen at random by the FPA to access Gaza.
Israel would also have chosen two journalists itself.
Sagaga said: “It should not be up to the Israeli government to dictate which journalists are allowed in and out of Gaza.”
The NUJ today released a statement condemning the violation of media freedom by Israel and backing demands from the IFJ and FPA to open Gaza to foreign journalists.