New York, Feb. 7, 2000–Twenty-seven prominent U.S., European, and Israeli journalists called on Prime Minister Ehud Barak today to end Israeli government restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian journalist Taher Shriteh, a veteran Gaza-based reporter for The New York Times, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun. The appeal is being circulated by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the New York-based independent press freedom group.
In the past, Shriteh, an award-winning Palestinian reporter who has covered the Gaza beat for the last 12 years, has been described by Israeli authorities as a “danger to the security of the country and the region.” Since March 1995, the Israeli government has denied him permission to travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank, thus severely restricting his work as a journalist. In October, his application for a permit to travel via the recently opened “safe-passage” route between Gaza and the West Bank was also rejected. Authorities even prohibited him from using the Israeli security-escorted shuttle bus service that operates between Gaza and the West Bank to transport people who are barred from entering Israel.
The restrictions on Shriteh’s freedom of movement appear to be punishment for his years of reporting about the activities of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Gaza and his coverage of the Palestinian Intifada.
The journalists signing the appeal are: Terry Anderson, Joel Brinkley, Ethan Bronner, Sabra Chartrand, Joseph Contreras, Ann Cooper, Cordelia Edvardson, Charles Enderlin, Elaine Ruth Fletcher, Glenn Frankel, Thomas Friedman, Howard Goller, Clyde Haberman, Paul Holmes, John Kifner, Anthony Lewis, Gideon Levy, Neil MacFarquhar, Robert Mahoney, Yoni Ben Menahem, Michael Rosenbaum, Serge Schmemann, Eric Silver, Bob Simon, Toshio Toma, Adrian Wells, and Tzvi Yehezkeli.
In their letter to Mr. Barak, the 27 signatories–all friends and colleagues of the Palestinian journalist–called on the prime minister “to ensure that the restrictions on Taher Shriteh’s freedom of movement are lifted immediately, so that he may carry out his professional work in Jerusalem and the West Bank without further interference from Israeli authorities.”
In more than a decade of reporting from the Gaza Strip, Shriteh has earned the respect of his peers for his courageous and professional coverage of the often volatile political situation. In March 1993, he received the prestigious Freedom of the Press award from the U.S.-based National Press Club for his contributions to press freedom and for his reporting on the Intifada.
The full text of the letter follows.
February 7, 2000
His Excellency Ehud Barak
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
We, the undersigned journalists, are writing to express our deep concern about continuing restrictions on the free movement of our friend and colleague Taher Shriteh, a veteran Gaza-based reporter for The New York Times, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun.
For nearly five years, Israeli authorities have denied Mr. Shriteh permission to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank from Gaza, describing him as a “danger to the security of the country and the region.” He is effectively barred from gathering news and from meeting with current and prospective employers outside Gaza. As a result, he has been severely hampered in his profession as a journalist.
We understand that these measures have been taken in reprisal for Mr. Shriteh’s years of reporting about the political situation in Gaza, including the activities of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).
Despite the opening of the safe-passage corridor between Gaza and the West Bank in October, Mr. Shriteh continues to be denied entry into Jerusalem and the West Bank. Since October, he has twice applied for a permit to travel via the safe-passage route. Both applications were rejected by Israeli authorities.
Taher Shriteh has never been tried or convicted of any crime, and Israeli authorities have never provided a convincing explanation for the harsh restrictions on his movements. As colleagues who have worked closely with him over the years, we know Mr. Shriteh as an uncompromising professional, one of the most accomplished and respected Palestinian journalists today.
We urge you to ensure that the restrictions on Taher Shriteh’s freedom of movement are lifted immediately, so that he may carry out his professional work in Jerusalem and the West Bank without further interference from Israeli authorities.
Thank you for your attention to this most important matter. We look forward to your comments.
Terry Anderson, Committee to Protect Journalists
Joel Brinkley, The New York Times
Ethan Bronner, The New York Times
Sabra Chartrand, The New York Times
Joseph Contreras, Newsweek
Ann Cooper, Committee to Protect Journalists
Cordelia Edvardson, Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm)
Charles Enderlin, France 2 TV
Elaine Ruth Fletcher, Religion News Service (Washington)
Glenn Frankel, The Washington Post
Thomas Friedman, The New York Times
Howard Goller, Foreign Press Association (Tel Aviv)
Clyde Haberman, The New York Times
Paul Holmes, Reuters
John Kifner, The New York Times
Anthony Lewis, The New York Times
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz
Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times
Robert Mahoney, Reuters
Yoni Ben Menahem, Israel Radio
Michael Rosenbaum, CBS News
Serge Schmemann, The New York Times
Eric Silver, The Independent (London), Time magazine
Bob Simon, CBS News
Toshio Toma, Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)
Adrian Wells, British Broadcasting Corporation
Tzvi Yehezkeli, Israel Defense Forces Radio