(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is indignant over the Israeli Government Press Office's (GPO) non-renewal of press cards for Palestinian journalists working for international media organisations. Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general, expressed his consternation over the decision. "This measure constitutes clear discrimination. It is not only the Palestinian media that is being targeted here, but also the international media, who will no longer be able to carry out their work as usual. We demand that the Israeli authorities reconsider this decision at once so that Palestinian reporters can do their jobs in normal conditions. We need reporters in the Occupied Territories in order to find out what is happening there," he added.
According to information obtained by RSF, since the beginning of 2002, with some exceptions, the GPO has not renewed press cards for Palestinians (journalists and other media workers) working for international media organisations. This decision, which affects journalists living in the Occupied Territories who work in Jerusalem as well as those who both live and work in the Occupied Territories, is said to be for "security reasons". In addition, under the pretext of safeguarding employment in Israel, the authorities are refusing to renew press cards for foreign television stations' technicians, insisting that foreign television companies can easily employ Israelis.
Without press cards, Palestinian journalists are at the mercy of the Israeli security forces, who have the authority to refuse them access to Jerusalem. For example, Awad Awad, a Palestinian photographer for Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Ramallah, was unable to enter Jerusalem on 14 January. He was stopped at a checkpoint because he did not have an Israeli press card. Some international media organisations, such as France 2 television, have been forced to bring in French teams to make reports in the Occupied Territories. According to an unnamed head of a Jerusalem-based news agency, press cards are reportedly being allocated "in a more or less arbitrary fashion." Although some Palestinian journalists' requests for press cards have been flatly turned down, most journalists have been informed that they will have to wait.
On 14 January, a number of foreign media organisations' head offices signed a statement in which they protested the Israeli authorities' refusal to renew their Palestinian staff members' press cards. Signing organisations included the AFP, Associated Press and Reuters news agencies, the ABC, CBS and NBC American television networks, European television channels France 2, TF1, ARD, ZDF, RAI, and others. According to GPO head Daniel Seaman, the press accreditation issue is currently under review.