The International Press Institute (IPI) has called for an end to restrictions on freedom of movement for journalists working in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
In a report released by IPI today, the lack of free movement for journalists emerges as the single greatest challenge to local reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Palestinian journalists are unable to enter Israel, and are subject to restrictions even within the West Bank, while Gaza residents have problems leaving the Strip. Israeli journalists, for their part, are unable to visit Gaza and may face new accreditation requirements in the West Bank.
Thus most journalists from the region who cover the conflict are unable to witness life on the other side or conduct face-to-face interviews. This, in turn, compromises their ability to report comprehensively.
IPI believes these restrictions make conflict coverage worse, because they make it harder for journalists to be fair and accurate, or to create reports that dig deeper or focus on the human aspects of a story.
The IPI report "Patriotism, Pressure and Press Freedom: How Israeli and Palestinian media cover the conflict from the inside,” is based on interviews with over 50 journalists and media experts in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza that were carried out over a week in February 2013.
The delegation included: IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Naomi Hunt; IPI World Press Freedom Hero Daoud Kuttab, who runs the Community Media Network in Jordan; and Norwegian journalist and project consultant Kjetil Haanes.
Special attention was paid to coverage of the Nov. 2012 Gaza conflict. The team found that Israeli and Palestinian media work under considerable pressure, whether economic or political, and Palestinian journalists in particular are subject to lawsuits, attacks and imprisonment by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
On the basis of their findings, IPI recommended the following:
- Israel to take steps to formally recognize the existence of Palestinian media organizations
- Restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinian and Israeli journalists in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank to be lifted
- Governing authorities to end efforts to influence editorial content through censorship or threats
- Journalists' access to official information to be improved
- Journalists should show solidarity on press freedom issues
Press freedom restrictions harm not only journalists, but the people served by their media outlets, who have a right to a strong, free press that presents a wide range of ideas and perspectives. IPI believes that addressing freedom of movement and other press freedom violations would benefit the public on both sides of this conflict.