January 24, 2002
Ms. Tzippi Livni
Minister without Portfolio
C/o Mr. Daniel Seaman
Government Press Office
37 Hillel St.
Via facsimile: 972-2-625-7886
Dear Minister Livni:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its deep concern about the Government Press Office’s (GPO) failure to renew the accreditation of Palestinian journalists.
According to a joint statement issued by the bureau chiefs of 29 international media organizations on January 15, the GPO has failed to renew press accreditations for all but a few of the Palestinian journalists employed by these organizations since December 31, when the old accreditations expired. The media companies have said that some foreign journalists, mostly camera crews, have also been refused accreditation.
Some Palestinian journalists who did receive their new GPO cards found they had been accredited for only a month. The Foreign Press Association of Israel (FPA) estimated that the new measures affect about 70 journalists working with international media organizations.
The GPO confirmed to CPJ that it has frozen all accreditations for Palestinian journalists until the government makes a final decision on the matter.
Media organizations have complained that the GPO’s failure to accredit Palestinian staffers has hampered their ability to report the news. While GPO cards do not automatically guarantee entry into East Jerusalem or Israel, they greatly facilitate the movement of journalists through military checkpoints and other obstacles to news gathering. Moreover, the card allows journalists access to government events.
GPO director Daniel Seaman has noted that the GPO cards are not travel documents. He argues that the government has a right to regulate press accreditation and that his office is only applying the law and other regulations in determining who receives a card. But the new measures will have a clearly negative impact on news gathering by significantly restricting the ability of both Palestinian journalists and the international media to carry out their normal duties. We fear that these measures may have been taken to curb the work of Palestinian journalists whom Israeli officials have in the past accused of biased reporting.
We understand that the government plans to revisit this issue in the coming week to determine a final policy. As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ respectfully urges the Israeli government and the GPO to expedite the renewal process so that Palestinian journalists can continue to do their professional work.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.
Ann K. Cooper