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IFJ says Italian talk of Israel "boycott" is absurd

(IFJ/IFEX) - 13 July 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today criticised Italian media reports over the expulsion of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists (NFIJ) from the IFJ for non-payment of fees for four years.

The IFJ says that the expulsion became inevitable after the Israeli union refused an offer to waive three years of debts and to pay normal fees for 2009.

"Talk of a boycott of Israel or anti-Semitism or political motives behind this action is absurd," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The IFJ leadership strongly supports the struggle of journalists in the region, including in Israel, to maintain their independence in the face of political pressure."

The IFJ says that it has for years been discussing problems with the National Federation of Israel Journalists, which has protested over IFJ condemnation of Israeli government's actions against media, including military strikes on media in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

"Our political arguments are with those who threaten press freedom - whether in the Arab world or in Israel," said White. "People who confuse our condemnation of governments who target journalists and media with ideological objectives deliberately distort the truth about the IFJ and its work."

The IFJ was responding to reports in Il Foglio, a newspaper owned by Italian Prime Minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, that the expulsion of the NFIJ was the consequence of a policy of boycotting Israel in recent years.

"This is nonsense. The IFJ has sent missions to Israel, visited our colleagues on the ground, and invited them to take part in our meetings," said White. "The IFJ has nothing to hide and has expressed its sincere wish to repair the split with the NFIJ, but we are a democratic organisation and we expect all our affiliates to respect our constitution and pay their fees."

The IFJ has made available the letter it sent to the NFIJ announcing the unanimous decision of the IFJ Executive Committee in June and a letter circulated to member unions explaining the decision.

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