The non-governmental body that assists foreigncorrespondents in Israel said on Thursday it is not sure how a proposalto require a US-style journalist visa for reporters will affect itsmembers, and denied Government Press Office assertions that journalistsbased in Israel are faking credentials in order to work for politicalNGOs operating in the Palestinian Authority.
The official said the organization was not overly concerned bythe visa initiative, and that it would have to wait to see what thegovernment demanded from journalists before it could assess the effecton their work.
She added that foreign journalists in Israel are already usedto waiting a great deal of time, often more than six months, to gettheir work visas renewed and often have difficulty navigatinggovernment bureaucracy. Such delays often leave many journalists withno choice but to leave the country and return every so often in orderto renew their visas, the official said.
The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday thatthe GPO's proposal is based on concern that foreign activists atanti-Israel NGOs are claiming they work as journalists in order tocircumvent immigration authorities.
To receive a journalist visa to the US, applicants must provethey work for a media organization whose base of operations is outsideof the US.
Thehead of the NGO Monitor organization said that although he wasn'tfamiliar with activists posing as journalists in order to enter Israel,the proposed regulations would be consistent with government efforts tohinder the efforts of "quasi-journalistic organizations who are engagedin political propaganda."
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitorand a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in RamatGan, added that a number of reporters entering Israel under no falsepretenses are "waging political warfare against Israel" and using theirrole 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, theEnglish-language editor for the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, who wasdetained at Ben-Gurion Airport after returning from a holiday abroadand spent a week in a detention cell at the airport before returning tothe United States this week. He had refused to say who he shared anapartment with.
His questioners reportedly recommended not allowing Malsin toreenter Israel, noting his critical reporting on Israeli policies inthe West Bank.