The Palestinian Authority said on Monday that foreign journalists who visit the West Bank through Israeli media facilitators are “unwelcome.”

The move is seen as an attempt by the PA to prevent journalists from writing stories that may reflect negatively on the Palestinian government’s image.

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The Jerusalem-based Media Central organization thus canceled a planned tour of foreign journalists to Jericho, which was to have taken place on Tuesday.

The organization has been taking foreign journalists on organized tours of the West Bank, where they have been able to speak to PA officials and other Palestinians freely. In Jericho, the journalists were supposed to meet with various PA officials, as well as the mayor.

However, a spokesman for the PA informed Media Central that foreign journalists should coordinate their visits to the West Bank through the PA’s press office and not through Israeli bodies. The spokesman said that foreign journalists whose visits are organized by Israeli groups are “unwelcome.”

The latest decision was apparently made in response to a report in the Los Angeles Times about a ceremony marking Jericho’s 10,000th birthday party. The report noted that many Palestinians and foreigners who were invited to the event did not show up.

“No foreign diplomats attended the opening ceremony, Shakira was not there to sing or shake, and even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a no-show,” according to the Los Angeles Times report. “Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, greeted by a few dozen Jericho children, unveiled a Jericho-themed postage stamp.”

The paper said that “like much in the West Bank, Jericho’s birthday fete appears to have fallen victim to inadequate finances, poor organization and political infighting. City officials said they received no funds to prepare. A planning committee fell into disarray as members and chairpersons kept changing. And a publicity firm was not hired until 10 days before the event.”

The Palestinian Government Media Center also responded sharply to claims of violating press freedoms on Tuesday after the Palestinian Authority refused to accommodate any journalists who enter PA-controlled territory with the assistance of the Jerusalem-based Media Central organization.

"The Palestinian Government Media Center is very keen, as a new institution, to provide facilities for journalists wishing to report on the reality of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and give an accurate view of the political situation," said a statement released by the group.  "What it is not prepared to do is work in co-operation with Israeli organizations dedicated to propaganda in support of the Occupation."

The press center's statement then went on to accuse Media Central of "denying reality" by referring to the West Bank as part of the "disputed territories" and not "occupied territories" and the Israeli control of certain civil functions in parts of the West Bank as the "Administration" and not "Occupation."

Seeking to discredit Media Central, the Palestinian Government Media Center reproduced a quote by Media Central's director critical of those who picture Israel as "injuring and tormenting Palestinians for no reason, stealing 'their' land and denying their 'human rights' as oppose to an Israel making difficult decisions, "sometimes making mistakes as it balances security needs against Palestinian humanitarian needs."


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