Foreign journalists are enjoying unprecedented freedom in covering the Gaza
conflict this week, especially in comparison to the situation in 2008- 2009 with
Operation Cast Lead.
According to the Government Press Office, as of
Sunday, 500 foreign journalists applied for press credentials allowing them free
access to conflict zones, in addition to nearly 1,400 journalists and crew
members already covering Israel and the Middle East.
Minister Yuli Edelstein instructed GPO Director Nitzan Chen to grant the
journalists access as quickly and efficiently as possible. As such, the GPO has
been working extended hours and organizing tours to the South led by Edelstein,
including to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
The New York Times
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren was not immediately authorized to enter Gaza
on Thursday, although eventually the IDF let her cross the border.
spent three hours in Yad Mordechai, roaming around the kibbutz [near the Gaza
border],” she recounted on Sunday. “A soldier kept saying we were approved to
enter Gaza, but nothing happened. We were quite worried we wouldn't get
Rudoren tried calling the IDF, the Defense Ministry, the Prime
Minister’s Office and the Coordination of Government Activities in the
Territories, and personally went to the roadblock near Yad Mordechai to try to
put pressure on soldiers to let her through.
“They let us through in the
end. It wasn’t so much waiting, at the end of the day,” she said.
Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood said she was able to get into
Gaza easily on Thursday.
“I drove to the Erez crossing and was stopped in
Yad Mordechai, because the road was blocked,” she explained.
lots of journalists, and the IDF allowed us to cross through.”
limitation on foreign journalists entering Gaza, according to Sherwood, was that
they were asked to sign a disclaimer that they would not blame the IDF if they
are injured or worse.
Sherwood, who was foreign editor at the Guardian
during Operation Cast Lead, said the GPO’s current treatment of press is very
different from what it was four years ago.
“[In Operation Cast Lead],
foreign journalists weren’t allowed into Gaza until it was over. Israel came
under a lot of criticism. People should be allowed to report. [This time,]
Israeli authorities are incredibly forthcoming to foreign
The GPO is working overtime,” she said.
correspondent said the GPO must have understood that it “can’t stop people from
reporting the conflict. In this Internet age, we’d still get reports from the
inside, from people tweeting or blogging.”
“It’s very last-century to try
to stop news from getting out,” she quipped.
Similarly, Chen said the GPO
learned its lesson from Operation Cast Lead, and came to the conclusion that
openness and transparency are preferable.
“We let journalists cover what
they want, so they can see themselves that Israel has nothing to hide,” he
“They go where they want without any limitations.”
international press coverage of Operation Pillar of Defense has been
significantly more positive than that of Operation Cast Lead.
Israeli narrative is more prominent in the media,” he explained. “The openness
has been indicated in the press, which is naturally critical.”
inside Gaza, both Sherwood and Rudoren did not feel any limitations or pressures
Describing the press situation in Gaza as a “free for all,”
Rudoren recounted Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil’s visit, together with
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to al-Shifa Hospital on Friday, in which 200
journalists gathered in a crowded hallway.
“People were screaming and
pushing, and a huddle of security guards and doctors kept people back. The two
of them were ready to give a press conference and nobody would shut up – there
wasn’t even a person trying to get them to shut up. No one asked if anyone has
more questions, or for us to sign in, or see press passes,” the New York Times
Rudoren explained that many foreign reporters were staying
in the same hotel, but not a single Hamas official or Palestinian Center for
Human Rights representative approached members of the press gathered in the
lobby to “peddle an angle.”
According to Sherwood, members of the press
weren’t asked to get accreditation from the Hamas Interior Ministry, because
government offices were closed in recent days.
“You don’t feel like
you’re being followed in Gaza,” she said, pointing out that “Hamas officials
Meanwhile, the IDF took to Twitter to defend itself
from accusations it had aimed at members of the press, tweeting that it had
“targeted senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives who were hiding in a media
building in Gaza.”
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar tweeted:
“The last strike on this media building in Gaza was called ‘precision’ by IDF.
This one is not, it’s hit the lower floor.”
“Was the Islamic Jihad man
killed in a Gaza media center there because he was giving an interview, or
because he was hiding?” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted.
after, the IDF Spokesman tweeted that Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives were
not being interviewed in the media building and were using reporters as human
“We targeted only the second floor, which is where the senior
terrorists were. The rest of the building was unharmed. Direct hit confirmed,”
the IDF tweeted.
A photo Danahar posted on Twitter indicated the IDF
tweets were accurate, showing smoke billowing in the front of the media
building, but only the second-floor windows blown out.
Also Monday, the
International Federation of Journalists called on the international community to
probe the IDF’s targeting of an antenna on the roof of the Al-Quds TV building
in Gaza on Sunday.
“We demand a full inquiry by the United Nations to
investigate the attacks and to take action against the government of Israel,”
IFJ President Jim Boumelha said.
“ The rights of journalists in conflict
zones have been particularly highlighted by the United Nations and member states
cannot stand by when one state acts in a reckless and dangerous
Boumelha added that “the reckless intimidation of media by the
Israeli Defense Force on a shocking scale should not go unpunished. If it does,
it leaves journalists and media exposed to the threat of attack in any conflict
at any time in the future.”