Anger over Israeli ban on foreign TV crews

A tightening of employment restrictions by the Israeli authorities is making it increasingly difficult for news organisations to report from the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israeli government has refused to renew the accreditation of both BBC and Reuters cameramen, which their crews need to get past checkpoints or film inside government buildings.

The government press office claims the new ruling is the result of pressure from unions, which have called for fewer non-Israeli cameramen to be employed because of the economic climate. It is understood around eight foreign cameramen are on a blacklist and are not being allowed back into the country.

But the news organisations have complained that this effectively restricts their movements, as Israelis are banned from entering the West Bank and Gaza and are unable to do the work currently done by non-Israeli crews.

The Foreign Press Association has made representations to the government on behalf of all the news organisations affected. Reuters is also appealing to the Labour ministry on behalf of Ahmed Bahaddou, whose application for the renewal of his accreditation has been refused.

But following on from the derecognition of a number of Palestinian journalists, who are already restricted to Gaza City, the ban on foreign camera crews has led to increased concern about hostility towards the media from sections of the government.

In a Reuters film shown last week at the News Xchange conference in Slovenia, Israeli government press office director Danny Seaman claimed that Palestinian cameramen were collaborating with the Palestinian Authority and should all be viewed as potential terrorists.

He added that as Israel was in a state of conflict, news organisations should not "come crying to us" about the treatment of journalists "because the media is not the main issue; if you get hurt, it’s your own responsibility".

By Julie Tomlin

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