Israel suspends journalist security check

Israel, bowing to pressure from local media and foreign press groups, has announced it was suspending plans to institute security checks of journalists seeking accreditation from the Government Press Office.

Israel's Foreign Press Association had protested against the security scrutiny
Israel's Foreign Press Association had protested against the security scrutiny

Arnon Perlman, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said late on Monday the Government Press Office (GPO), whose director Daniel Seaman had pushed for the clearances by the
national Shin Bet security service,would re-examine the issue.

Citing government sources, Haaretz newspaper said on Tuesday that Seaman would soon be replaced, as he had failed to win an internal tender extending his tenure at the GPO. He denied it.“I am continuing in my post and remain a candidate for future tenders,” Seaman told Reuters. 

Angry voices

Israel’s Foreign Press Association had protested against the GPO security scrutiny as “an utter violation of freedom of the press”, and national press groups have also voiced opposition.

Israel claims security checks arenecessary as a result of Intifada

Israel claims security checks are
necessary as a result of Intifada

One of Israel’s largest newspapers, Maariv, illustrated a story on the planned edict with a photograph on Monday of a GPO-issued press card attached to a ball and chain.

GPO-issued press cards are required in Israel to cross police lines, cover events in government offices or attend news conferences by top officials and military officers.

Seaman said earlier this month Israeli and foreign journalists seeking GPO accreditation would undergo security checks due to mounting security concerns arising from a three-year-old Palestinian uprising.

Threat perception

Previously, most cards have been issued without review.  About 15,000 journalists holding GPO-issued press cards would have had to produce a lawyer’s affidavit saying they were indeed journalists and pay a fee for a press pass under the new rules.

Seaman had said credentials would be denied only in
instances where a journalist was proved to be “a clear and
present danger to the public or (have) involvement with a
terrorist organisation”.

Seaman, whose bureau began denying permits to Palestinian journalists last year citing security concerns, said last week the names of both Israeli and foreign journalists would not be handed over to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, until 1 January .

But Haaretz, citing sources in the GPO, said the office had
already handed over the names of thousands of Israeli

Source: Reuters

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