Journalists union may cut ties with int'l federation

Impetus for break comes after communiqué claims women journalists face threats and violence working in Israel.

February 28, 2012 01:06
3 minute read.
Photojournalists [file photo]

Photojournalists photographers journalists reporters 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The National Federation of Israeli Journalists may sever ties with the International Federation of Journalists after several incidents suggest that the Jewish state has been singled out unfairly for criticism.

The impetus for the break comes following a communiqué sent by the IFJ to UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon in November citing Israel as one of six countries where “women journalists face threats, political pressure, violence, rape and abuse either due to their gender or simply for doing their jobs.”

Danny Zaken, chairman of the Journalists Association in Jerusalem, responded in a letter sent Sunday: “I demand answers for the outrageous false paper the IFJ issued about violence toward women journalists in Israel.

“It looks like there are no answers and the IFJ is going back to the bad old days of working with twisted politics instead of with professionalism,” he wrote, adding, “We cannot take part in a show like that.”

Zaken told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that over the past few months – after repeated requests to validate particular accusations – IFJ President Jim Boumelha highlighted other areas of gender inequality and violence here in lieu of hard evidence to suggest that female journalists are particularly targeted.

“We want to receive a full apology from them and to see a more professional approach in the way they act towards us in the future,” Zaken said. If no apology is forthcoming, the Israeli federation will waive its membership fees due next month and end its cooperation with the IFJ, he said.

“Of course we will hold a vote on the matter, but if there is no apology and this approach does not change, then we will be left with no choice but to cease our connection to the IFJ,” he said.

The Tel Aviv Journalist Association decided more than a year ago to end its relationship with the international body, but the Jerusalem branch continued its membership on behalf of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists.

Zaken said that several other countries have broken ties with the IFJ in recent years, including journalists’ unions in the US and Australia.

Contacted on Monday, Boumelha declined to comment on the Israeli federations’ threats to leave the organization. He also turned down requests to furnish further information on Israel’s alleged mistreatment of female journalists.

The latest dispute between the federation and the international body was sparked when the IFJ compared Israel to countries such as Mexico, the Philippines, Somalia, Russia and Nepal, where over the past few years women journalists have been murdered or faced violent sexual assaults while doing their jobs.

While there were several recent reports of Israeli authorities harassing female journalists and even arrests of Palestinian female journalists in the past, there have been no known cases of extreme violence or deaths as a result of mistreatment.

However, in communication with Zaken immediately following the letter to Ban, Boumelha insisted that all the organization’s information “has been meticulously researched and I would like to allay your concern that Israel may have been singled out.” He went on to discuss various media reports from the past few years highlighting domestic violence and the trafficking of women into Israel, but never once mentioned attacks against women journalists here.

The International Federation of Journalists is the world’s largest organization of journalists, according to information on its website. First established in 1926, today it represents around 600,000 members in more than 100 countries.

“The IFJ promotes international action to defend press freedom and social justice through strong, free and independent trade unions of journalists,” the organization writes on its site. “The IFJ does not subscribe to any given political viewpoint, but promotes human rights, democracy and pluralism.”

Zaken said that while the IFJ is useful in supporting journalists who find themselves in trouble worldwide, there are other global organizations, such as the International Press Institute, which would suffice as an alternative.

As of 2011, the National Federation of Israeli Journalists in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem counted 600 full members and 359 associate members.

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