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Media ban by Israel in Gaza is a recipe for censorship, ignorance and fear, says IFJ

Media ban by Israel in Gaza is a recipe for censorship, ignorance and fear
Israeli mobile artillery redeploys at sunset near the border with the Gaza Strip. The heaviest fighting of Israel's war on Hamas raged in Gaza City early on Tuesday as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rebuffed appeals to stop the death toll from mounting.Photo: Agence France-Presse (AFP) / Menahem Kahana

The Israeli ban on foreign journalists from entering Gaza to cover the conflict is a dangerous violation of press freedom that adds to "ignorance, uncertainty and fear" in the region, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said.

IFJ says that the presence of independent reporters on the ground is needed to ensure that there are no flagrant abuses of human rights by combatants. IFJ's protest comes as the global humanitarian agency Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for rights monitors as well as journalists to be allowed into Gaza, a move that could help save lives.

"The Israeli ban on foreign news media from Gaza since December 27 raises concerns that there is a systematic attempt to prevent scrutiny of actions by the Israeli military," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The eyes of the world are on Gaza, but Israel is trying to censor the news by keeping the media at bay."

IFJ says that Israeli claims the ban was imposed because it cannot guarantee the safety of journalists is untenable. "Few news people take this seriously given that Israel has already shown its contempt for international law by its targeted military strike on an unarmed television station at the outset of the conflict," said White.

For the past two months, when the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas broke down, Israel has restricted access to Gaza for foreign journalists. None has been allowed entry since the current military campaign began. The world's media are largely dependent upon coverage provided by local Palestinian freelance staff, many of whom are denied formal press accreditation by Israel and have no freedom to move in the region. Israeli journalists themselves are denied access to Gaza, say human rights groups, because of the government's policy of prohibiting citizens from entering Gaza.

IFJ is concerned that restriction of access and movement may contribute to unbalanced reporting as journalists are unable to report from all conflict-hit areas. IFJ is supporting efforts by the Jerusalem-based Foreign Correspondents Association to get journalists access to Gaza, but is insisting that there should be no controlled access organised and supervised by the Israeli authorities.

"It is not for one side to dictate who goes into the area and in what circumstances," said White. "Journalists should be allowed to travel and work freely without monitoring by the military."

Date posted: January 6, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 380