Thursday, January 15, 2009

Action Alert: Call for Israel to lift media blackout on Gaza

The Arab American Institute (AAI) :: January 15, 2009

The Arab American Institute (AAI) calls on the State Department to urge the Israeli government to immediately allow reporters into Gaza in accordance with the Israeli High Court Ruling of December 2008.

Since the start of the Israeli offensive last December, foreign and Israeli journalists have been blocked from entering the Gaza Strip to report on the situation. This is the first time since 1973 that the Israeli army has refused to permit reporters to accompany soldiers in a conflict zone. News reports note that over 500 correspondents have assembled at the borders, many having already petitioned the Israeli government for entry into Gaza. Reporters without Borders remarks that most of the coverage of the situation in Gaza comes from the 295 Palestinian journalists reporting under "extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances."

"The exclusion of foreign correspondents is a very important part of the Israeli plans," asserted Robert Fox, defense correspondent for the London Evening Standard. "It was one of the main lessons they drew from the war in Lebanon in 2006. They want to 'manage the information space'."

Even after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that reporters be allowed in to Gaza in groups of 12, the IDF has refused, claiming that it is too dangerous. Multiple international organizations have responded to the media blackout:

Foreign Press Association stated that “[t]he unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world's media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom.”

ABC News, CBS News, CNN, New York Times, and NPR among other American and international news organizations have signed the
Reporters with out Boarders petition “urging the Israeli authorities to allow our reporters back into the Gaza Strip.”

Doha Centre for Media Freedom attempted to take a busload of equipment and supplies accompanied by 20 foreign journalists into the Gaza Strip though the Rafah crossing, but have been turned away.

Human Rights Watch “urged the Israeli government to abide by an Israeli High Court ruling on December 31, 2008 and allow foreign media into Gaza. The presence of journalists and human rights monitors in conflict areas provides an essential check on human rights abuses and laws-of-war violations”

Contact the State Department through the AAI

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