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ISRAEL/PALESTINE: JOURNALISTS PRESSURED TO TOE THE LINE

For journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, critical independent reporting is a constant challenge. Pressure to toe the line often comes from both sides. In recent weeks, moves by Palestinian authorities have raised alarm from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontierès, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On 20 July 2004, the Gaza section of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate threatened to punish local journalists who reported on internal conflicts within the Palestinian leadership and demanded that journalists publish images that support "national unity and the protection of the internal front," according to IFJ.

The move came after recent clashes in Gaza following the appointment of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's cousin, Musa Arafat, as the Palestinian Authority's top security chief. The appointment has since been revoked, RSF notes.

Members of the Palestinian Authority and Arafat's Fatah organisation also threatened journalists from the Arabic satellite channels "Al Jazeera" and "Al-Arabiya," warning them to "be careful" in their reporting.

This is not the first time the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has tried to curb critical reporting on the conflict, says CPJ. In August 2002, it tried to prevent journalists from photographing Palestinian children wearing military uniforms or carrying weapons. It said such coverage served "the interests of Israel and its propaganda against the Palestinian people."

The IFJ and the International News Safety Institute say they are planning to run safety training courses for Palestinian journalists and open a safety centre in the region to provide assistance to local media.

Visit these links:

- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2620&Language=EN
- INSI: http://www.newssafety.com/
- RSF Report on Palestine:
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=9933
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2004/PAT22july04na.html

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