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An Italian journalists' union has invited five representatives of the National Organization of Israeli Journalists to Rome on Thursday for a discussion of the Israeli union's recent ejection from the International Federation of Journalists.
Lorenzo Del Boca, chairman of the National Order of Journalists in Rome, contacted the Israeli union last week and arranged for the visit, Arik Bachar, secretary-general of the Israel Press Council, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The Italian press has been critical of the Israeli union's expulsion in June after it had not paid dues for nearly five years.
The Israeli union has been saying that since the Second Lebanon War three year ago, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has treated Israel unfairly, with heightened biases since Operation Cast Lead last winter.
The dialogue between the two unions continued when the Israeli union issued a letter to IFJ Secretary-General Aidan White to clarify that it had not paid dues because it felt it was not being treated on the same footing as other members, citing instances when the Israelis were not invited to two major IFJ conferences in Europe or consulted when the IFJ conducted research for a report on media coverage during Operation Cast Lead.
The IFJ responded by saying the Israeli union was expelled solely for financial reasons.
The Italian union was unable to provide particulars of the agenda for Thursday's meeting, but Haim Shibi, from the Israeli delegation, said the unions would talk about media issues and the role of the IFJ.
This meeting was directly related to the expulsion of the Israeli union, said Rachel Feinmesser, spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Rome, said on Wednesday.
The embassy welcomed the meeting, saying it was "clearly a sign of solidarity and maintaining a direct dialogue with Israel."
Feinmesser said Italian media tended to hold "fair" perspectives on Israel. The fact that the Italian press had talked about the IFJ boycott in a negative way and criticized the boycott was a sign of how the Italian press related to Israel, she said.
"I see it as a very positive sign for Italy to maintain and continue direct dialogue with Israeli journalists, contrary to what the international journalists union is doing," Feinmesser said.
Shibi said the invitation was evidence there was a voice in Europe that was not completely supportive of the International Federation of Journalists. The Israeli union welcomed the Italians' willingness to say something that contradicted the IFJ's message, he said.
"I think it's an invitation showing solidarity in the best way possible," said Israel Press Council head Bachar, who is also a member of the Israeli delegation.