FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION REJECTS ISRAEL POLICE MEDIA RESTRICTIONS
(Foreign Press Association Statement, October 29, 2018)
The Foreign Press Association expresses its concern at new procedures proposed by the Israel Police to restrict media coverage of events in public spaces.
The procedures were presented by the police as part of a Supreme Court case where representatives of Israeli and foreign journalists, together with human rights groups, have appealed against police procedures that allow authorities to prevent reporters and photographers from covering events of public interest.
The court challenge against police treatment of the media comes after several incidents in which FPA members were banned by police officers from photographing incidents in and around Jerusalem and in some cases were physically assaulted and their equipment damaged by police officers.
It also follows a period of about 18 months in which reporters have frequently been denied permission to film on the Temple Mount / Haram Al-Sharif.
“While we respect the court-ordered dialogue with police, these proposed procedures remain far too vague and open the door for excessive and arbitrary restrictions,” said FPA Chairman Josef Federman.
“Access to the Temple Mount has been heavily restricted over the past 18 months, thereby imposing a frequent media blackout on the most important site in the region,” Federman said. “It makes no sense to ban the media when the everyday public and tourists still have access.”
The FPA is also concerned that police officers in the field often ignore official press accreditation when preventing media photographers from doing their job.
“From our experience the police rarely look at the official GPO credentials cards or understand what they are,” he said.
“The FPA’s attorneys will shortly submit to the Supreme Court our response to the police proposal,” he said.
Asked by the court to present their rules of conduct for dealing with the media, the police submitted a detailed paper titled “Regulating the Israel Police's Conduct vis-à-vis the Media at Operational Events.” The police said the proposal strikes “a proper balance between the freedom of press coverage by the Media and the Police's obligation to maintain public order, preventing harm to human lives and bodily integrity.”
The FPA objects to several clauses in the proposed police rules, including the right claimed by the police to restrict reporters’ access when “the entry of the media personnel shall lead to a severe infringement of a person's privacy,” or “there is real concern for severe harm to the bodily integrity of the media personnel if access shall be permitted,” or “there is real concern that the entry of the media personnel will escalate a violent atmosphere to a level which could endanger human lives.”
The FPA also objects to the proposal that media access can be denied where there are “special circumstances that justify preventing the media personnel from entering the Scene of Event” – wording that is so vague it could cover anything.
The FPA rejects the suggestion that access could be allowed with “Police accompaniment of the journalists at the scene” which it says is
reminiscent of government media “minders” in totalitarian regimes.
For a full (unofficial) English translation of the Israel Police proposals, or for further comment/information, please contact:
GLENYS SUGARMAN, Executive Secretary, Foreign Press Association
Early today, June 26, the AP’s chief TV producer was barred from covering the prime
minister’s meeting with Prince William at the prime minister’s official residence following a blatant case of ethnic profiling.
The producer, an Albanian national and accredited international journalist based in Israel for three years, was repeatedly asked by security guards about his “extraction,” while other AP staffers were asked about his religion and whether he was a "Muslim".
It should be noted that the producer had registered for the event ahead of time and been assured by the prime minister’s office that he would be allowed to enter. He also was meant to be the pool reporter for international media. The producer and an AP cameraman appeared at the prime minister’s residence two and a half hours ahead of the scheduled event to allow time for security checks.
The Foreign Press Association condemns this disgraceful and indefensible behavior by the prime minister’s security staff in the strongest terms.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long line of offensive and unprecedented behavior by security staff, including inappropriate personal questions and strip searches of journalists trying to cover the news.
We call on the prime minister’s office to apologize immediately, and urge the Duke of Cambridge’s office to speak out against this offensive behavior, which has marred a historic visit. Enough is enough
The FPA deplores the Palestinian Authority security forces' treatment of journalists covering the protests in Ramallah on Wednesday, June 13.
At least one journalist reported being punched, kicked, and assaulted with a baton by members of the security forces. Several journalists were detained without cause and forced to delete photographs from phones and cameras.
This behaviour is completely unacceptable. Covering peaceful demonstrations is one of the most basic jobs of the media and journalists should be able to do so without fear of attack or censorship.
The FPA urges the Palestinian Authority to investigate this incident and to apologize. June 14
FPA expresses its deep sympathy over the death of Gaza journalist Yasser Murtaja, who was fatally shot while covering a border demonstration in Gaza yesterday.
We urge the army to show restraint in areas where journalists are operating and to conduct a fast and open investigation into this incident.
We also remind our members to exercise utmost caution when covering these events. April 7, 2018
The FPA protests the deplorable situation in the Old City of Jerusalem where tourists were given access while accredited journalists and photojournalists were held back and relegated to distant positions totally useless for reporting. July 23rd 2017.
Early this morning, a journalist from Finland’s state broadcaster who is accredited by the GPO was forced to undergo an overly zealous and demeaning security check at the prime minister’s office when she arrived to cover the arrival of Mike Pence.
The woman was taken behind a curtain, questioned, patted down and scanned with a metal detector _ all apparently because she is of Palestinian descent. Security personnel then ordered the woman to remove her bra, and when she refused, barred her from the event.
Unfortunately, this was just the latest instance of journalists being needlessly hassled by Israeli security in what we believe is clear ethnic profiling. The repugnant practice of strip searching journalists puts Israel in a category all of its own and is a mark of shame for a country that boasts of its democratic credentials.
The FPA has repeatedly expressed its understanding of Israel’s unique security needs, and we are all used to the lengthy check-in process at official events. But given all of the technology and intelligence at Israel’s fingertips, we fail to see any good reason for the continued humiliation of professional accredited journalists and can only conclude that this only-in-Israel practice is aimed at making people feel unwelcome and keeping them away.
We urge all members to keep reporting to us any difficulties with security, and would encourage those who are covering the Pence visit to mention this incident.
January 22, 2018
HOME ON THE WEB FOR MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENTS