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REGIONS:

Government announces punitive measures against the BBC

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has condemned the Israeli government's announcement on 1 July 2003 that it is cutting all links with the BBC, Britain's state-owned broadcaster, on the grounds that it "systematically demonises" Israel and carries reports "verging on anti-Semitism."

Describing the accusations against the BBC as "disgraceful and pathetic," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said the Israeli government "has trouble accepting the editorial freedom of certain news media organisations when it doesn't serve its interests."

"The decision to boycott a widely-respected independent news organisation such as the BBC is not only regrettable but also absurd," Ménard said. "It is also unworthy of a government that claims to have assimilated the principles and virtues of press freedom," he added.

The reprisals against the BBC, which will include a boycott by Israeli officials and increased difficulties for BBC journalists travelling to Israel, follow the BBC's recent broadcast of a report about Israel's nuclear programme, entitled "Israel's secret weapon".

The Israeli government also announced that it would apply pressure through its ambassador in Australia, Gaby Levy, on the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which has said it intends to broadcast the controversial documentary at a later date.

RSF recalls that as a result of a dispute between Israeli officials and the U.S. television news network CNN in 2002, the network came close to being removed from the services offered to Israeli homes by a satellite television provider. The Israeli government has previouslyy accused CNN and the BBC of revealing a pro-Palestinian bias.

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