Israeli journalists 248 88.
(photo credit: )
The rift between the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Federation of Israeli Journalists (NFIJ) following the Israeli union's expulsion from the international group in June, has been mended by an agreement reached at an emergency meeting held in Tel Aviv this week.
The meeting took place between NFIJ leaders and an IFJ delegation composed of Aidan White, the IFJ general secretary; Michael Klehm and Andreas Bittner, representing the German journalists federation; and Franco Siddi, secretary-general of the Italian union.
"A damaging and difficult period is behind us" said White, adding, "We are committed to a new phase of cooperation to bring Israeli journalists back into the center of international work. Now we have an agreement that is good for Israeli media, good for the international family of journalists and good for democracy."
The meeting was timed to precede a special IFJ Executive Committee meeting to be held in Brussels on November 14. Proposals will then be submitted regarding a heightened international and regional profile for the reintegrated Israeli journalists.
Both the German and Italian journalist groups helped mediate the resolution.
White thanked "our affiliates in Italy and Germany for their goodwill and solidarity in helping to break a deadlock that was damaging all of us.
"In particular, our Italian colleagues and their secretary general, Franco Siddi, saw the urgent need to intervene to bring goodwill to the table," White said. "Their good offices and those of our German colleagues have given real meaning to the notion of international solidarity and for that we are very grateful."
Siddi commented that "eliminating the contribution of Israeli journalists to our international federation was inconceivable. Israeli media are amongst the most independent and freest in the world, and their voices are an essential element in the IFJ, which is based on democratic, ethical principals."
A compromise was also reached regarding the dispute over nonpayment of fees to the IFJ, which had been the reason originally given for the Israeli union's expulsion.
Under the agreement, the Israeli union will pay membership dues closer to the Middle Eastern rates rather than the European ones, and will repay half of what the IFJ says it owes. This proposal must still be approved by the IFJ Executive Committee on November 14.
But although the financial aspect was important, the "full and equal status of Israeli journalists in the IFJ" was the essential issue, according to Yossi Bar-Moha, of the Tel Aviv Journalists Association.
His list of grievances included accusations of ostracism by some Arab colleagues and the IFJ's Gaza investigative mission on Palestinian press freedom after Operation Cast Lead, that was decided upon without prior consultation with the Israeli federation.
White expressed regret over the lack of communication and assured Israeli colleagues that utmost care would be taken in the future to assure the complete and reciprocal information flow necessary for decision making.
At Monday's high-pitched and at times emotionally charged meeting in Tel Aviv, NFIJ delegates joining Bar-Moha included Avi Paz, Roy Katz, Haim Shibi and Arik Bahar. All stressed their deep desire and professional need for the IFJ to facilitate greater cooperation with Arab, particularly Palestinian, colleagues.
These requests resulted in the following agreed proposals to be presented to the IFJ Executive Committee:
1) An annual meeting of IFJ and NFIJ leaders to review their relations;
2) An invitation to Israel to join a meeting of Mediterranean journalists to be held in Sardinia next year by invitation of the Italian Federation;
3) The organization of a meeting in Israel to discuss the IFJ's Ethical Journalism Initiative - a global campaign to improve media standards;
4) The organization of a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian journalists with the support of the Deutsche Journalisten Verband in Germany;
5) More engagement of Israeli journalists in the work of the IFJ's European section.
"This agreement will bring Israeli colleagues into the center of our work in the region. If it holds, it will benefit the whole community of journalists inside and outside the country" said White.