FPA denies activists pose as journalists to work in PA

Foreign journalists in Israel are already used to waiting a great deal of time, often more than six months, to get their work visas renewed, says FPA official.

January 22, 2010 00:17
2 minute read.
FPA denies activists pose as journalists to work in PA

journalists gaza 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

The non-governmental body that assists foreign correspondents in Israel said on Thursday it is not sure how a proposal to require a US-style journalist visa for reporters will affect its members, and denied Government Press Office assertions that journalists based in Israel are faking credentials in order to work for political NGOs operating in the Palestinian Authority.

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A Foreign Press Association official said the people it works with are journalists and not activists, and their job is to report on what they see, not volunteer for foreign advocacy groups. No self-respecting journalist would lie about his credentials in order to enter Israel and work as a political activist under the guise of being a journalist, she said.

The official said the organization was not overly concerned by the visa initiative, and that it would have to wait to see what the government demanded from journalists before it could assess the effect on their work.

She added that foreign journalists in Israel are already used to waiting a great deal of time, often more than six months, to get their work visas renewed and often have difficulty navigating government bureaucracy. Such delays often leave many journalists with no choice but to leave the country and return every so often in order to renew their visas, the official said.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday that the GPO's proposal is based on concern that foreign activists at anti-Israel NGOs are claiming they work as journalists in order to circumvent immigration authorities.

To receive a journalist visa to the US, applicants must prove they work for a media organization whose base of operations is outside of the US.

The head of the NGO Monitor organization said that although he wasn't familiar with activists posing as journalists in order to enter Israel, the proposed regulations would be consistent with government efforts to hinder the efforts of "quasi-journalistic organizations who are engaged in political propaganda."

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor and a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, added that a number of reporters entering Israel under no false pretenses are "waging political warfare against Israel" and using their role as journalists "to be a mouthpiece for Palestinian issues."

Often with such journalists, "the line between journalism and propaganda becomes blurry," he said.

Steinberg mentioned the case of Jared Malsin, the English-language editor for the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, who was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport after returning from a holiday abroad and spent a week in a detention cell at the airport before returning to the United States this week. He had refused to say who he shared an apartment with.

His questioners reportedly recommended not allowing Malsin to reenter Israel, noting his critical reporting on Israeli policies in the West Bank.

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