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Three journalists face prosecution for traveling to "enemy countries" without clearance

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 8 December 2007 IFJ media release:

Israel Talking Peace and Prosecuting Journalists Not Acceptable Says IFJ as Reporters Face Jail Threat

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Israeli authorities to abandon plans to prosecute journalists who visited Lebanon and Syria, countries with which Israel has no formal relations, in the course of their work.

"At a time when key players in the region are talking peace it is grotesque that journalists should be facing prosecution for doing their job," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Israel should be sending a signal that it is ready for change."

Israeli police said on Thursday they will recommend charges be brought against Ron Ben Yishai of the daily Yediot Aharonot, who in September travelled to Syria, and two journalists who visited Lebanon, Lisa Goldman of the private network Channel 10 television and Tzur Shizaf also for Channel 10 and on behalf of Ma'ariv newspaper.

"We intend to ask prosecutors to indict the three journalists as with their illegal acts they not only put their lives in danger, but also the security of Israel," the officer in charge of the case, Alon Sharabani, told public radio. He said none of the journalists had obtained clearance for the visits from the government.

According to local media reports the three reporters are holders of both Israeli and foreign passports, using the latter to enter the two prohibited countries. Israeli law forbids its citizens of the Jewish state, even those with multiple nationalities, from travelling to "enemy states" without permission from the interior ministry. Breaches of the law can lead to jail terms of up to four years.

The three reporters were first questioned by the National Serious and International Crimes Unit a month ago. Police say they breached the Infiltration Prevention Law.

"It well known that journalists travel between countries in the region using different passports," said White. "In a difficult political and security climate it is often the only way they can possibly report on developments in the region."

He said the IFJ was taking the case up with the National Federation of Israel Journalists. "We are very concerned at the way this case has been handled and the threat to press freedom here," said White.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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