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Robert Fisk: Keeping out the cameras and reporters simply doesn't work
by UK Independent (reposted)
Monday Jan 5th, 2009 7:50 AM
What is Israel afraid of? Using the old "enclosed military area" excuse to prevent coverage of its occupation of Palestinian land has been going on for years. But the last time Israel played this game – in Jenin in 2000 – it was a disaster. Prevented from seeing the truth with their own eyes, reporters quoted Palestinians who claimed there had been a massacre by Israeli soldiers – and Israel spent years denying it. In fact, there was a massacre, but not on the scale that it was originally reported.

Now the Israeli army is trying the same doomed tactic again. Ban the press. Keep the cameras out. By yesterday morning, only hours after the Israeli army went clanking into Gaza to kill more Hamas members – and, of course, more civilians – Hamas was reporting the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Reporters on the ground could have sorted out the truth or the lie about that. But without a single Western journalist in Gaza, the Israelis were left to tell the world that they didn't know if the story was true.

On the other hand, the Israelis are so ruthless that the reasons for the ban on journalism may be quite easily explained: that so many Israeli soldiers are going to kill so many innocents – more than three score by last night, and that's only the ones we know about – that images of the slaughter would be too much to tolerate. Not that the Palestinians have done much to help. The kidnapping by a Palestinian mafia family of the BBC's man in Gaza – finally released by Hamas, although that's not being recalled right now – put paid to any permanent Western television presence in Gaza months ago. Yet the results are the same.

Back in 1980, the Soviet Union threw every Western journalist out of Afghanistan. Those of us who had been reporting the Russian invasion and its brutal aftermath could not re-enter the country – except with the mujahedin guerrillas. I received a letter from Charles Douglas-Hume, who was editor of the The Times – for which I then worked – making an important observation. "Now that we have no regular coverage from Afghanistan," he noted on 26 March that year, "I would be grateful if you could make sure that we do not miss any opportunity for reporting on reliable accounts of what is going on in that country. We must not let events in Afghanistan vanish from the paper simply because we have no correspondent there."

by more
Monday Jan 5th, 2009 4:04 PM

EREZ CROSSING, Israel (AP) — Israel scrapped arrangements Monday to allow the first foreign reporters into the Gaza Strip since the military launched its offensive against Palestinian militants, adding to mounting media frustration at being locked out of the war zone.

The ban on foreign media, which has been appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, drew criticism from journalists that Israel is trying to manage the story.

Israel asserts that opening border crossings for journalists would endanger staff at the terminals, which have often been targeted by militants.

The Associated Press and some other news organizations have Palestinian reporters, photographers and cameramen based in Gaza. Many media have no reliable source of independent information.

"The barring of outside news organizations from Gaza hampers the flow of unbiased information of vital interest to the entire world. Authorities on all sides should work to allow access by journalists in keeping with the aims of press freedom," said John Daniszewski, the AP's managing editor for international news.

The Israeli government has long banned Israeli journalists from entering Gaza because of fears for their safety, but foreign reporters previously were permitted in, even during times of heavy fighting.

Human Rights Watch urged Israel to open Gaza to journalists and human rights monitors to report on the actions of both sides. "Their presence can discourage abuse by warring parties and help save lives," the New York-based organization said.

by Arab News (reposted)
Monday Jan 5th, 2009 6:26 PM
RAMALALH, West Bank: As part of its military censorship, Israel is maintaining its ban on foreign reporters entering the Gaza Strip.

The decision of the Defense Ministry to bar journalists from covering the ten-day-old military offensive from inside Gaza has forced them to report from the Gaza-Israel border and to rely on Palestinian stringers and reporters.

This week the matter reached the Israeli High Court of Justice. In a compromise, the parties agreed that a limited team of eight journalists would be allowed into Gaza as soon as the Erez crossing opens to send in humanitarian aid. But the crossing has not yet opened. The Israeli army’s coordinator of activities in the Palestinian territories, Maj. Peter Lerner, noted that in keeping with the guidelines set by the High Court, the journalists would only be allowed through when the crossing opens. But he said he could not say when that will happen.

“There are masses of requests,” says Noam Katz, director of public relations at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “A reporter from CNN stands there and protests the state’s decision on the air,” he said.

Glenys Sugarman, executive secretary of the Foreign Press Association (FPA), said, “It looks like there will be no immediate change in the situation. It’s a question of working out the logistics.”

FPA sources said there are currently 400 to 500 foreign journalists in Israel, and since the ground operation began, senior correspondents have begun to stream in. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, the producers of NBC television’s “Meet the Press” are here from the United States, as is Bob Simon of CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, is also here. Everyone will have to wait for the policy to change and for Israel to allow the media into Gaza to cover the events.

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