(AP) Foreign media organizations, including The Associated Press, jointly protested Tuesday the Israeli government’s refusal to renew official press accreditations of most Palestinian staffers.
Government Press Office press cards, which have been used to facilitate travel and gain access for journalists, expired Dec. 31.
With few exceptions, Palestinians who work for international media have not received the new cards even though Israeli and foreign journalists were accredited.
“This has already resulted in significant difficulties for us in covering the important story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a fair and balanced manner,” said a statement signed by two dozen media representatives, including the bureau chiefs of AP, Reuters, Agence France-Press, CNN, ABC, CBS, and the BBC.
The signatories said they were “deeply concerned” about the development. The statement noted some foreigners have also not received accreditation, mostly foreign television crews operating out of Israel.
“The GPO does not prevent the media from hiring whoever they want,” said Daniel Seaman, director of the Government Press Office. He said the press card is not an entry permit into Israel and the issue of accreditation was still being examined.
Glenys Sugarman, executive secretary of the Foreign Press Association, said a preliminary survey by the organization found about 70 Palestinian employees of foreign media were affected.
Palestinian photographers said the Israeli press card made it easier to navigate Israeli army roadblocks and establish their identity as journalists.
Awad Awad, 31, a photographer for the French news agency Agence France-Presse in the West Bank town of Ramallah, said that he was stopped at a checkpoint and was unable to carry out an assignment in Jerusalem on Monday because he didn’t have an Israeli press card. “The decision not to give me a press card means, ‘Stop your job,'” Awad said.
Nasser Nasser, an AP photographer in the West Bank whose accreditation was not renewed, said “doing my job without this card is very difficult.”
Some Israeli officials have complained that the foreign media have relied too heavily on Palestinians for coverage in the West Bank and Gaza.