Israeli journalists, int'l federation trade charges over expulsion

Anti-Israel bias or unpaid debt debated as cause for Israel's ejection from International Federation of Journalists.

ifj 88 (photo credit: )
ifj 88
(photo credit: )
An Israeli journalists union's expulsion from an international federation last month has sparked debate about whether the move was due to unpaid debt or political differences. Il Foglio, a Milan-based newspaper, indicated in an article last week that the International Federation of Journalists had ejected the National Federation of Israeli Journalists because of an anti-Israel bias. The IFJ responded by releasing two statements on Monday reiterating that the Israeli union had been sanctioned for not paying its dues. In a decision endorsed by the international federation, the Jordan Press Association has barred the Israeli union from attending the next IFJ conference, set for Amman in October, according to the online EarthTimes newspaper and the Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) NGO. On Wednesday, representatives of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists sent a letter to Aidan White, the secretary general of the International Federation of Journalists. "We had to clarify our position," said Haim Shibi, a member of the Israeli union, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. "We are not playing here about the money." Shibi said the IFJ was "biased." "We didn't get our voice heard and without prior notice, we are being expelled," he said. The Israeli members were not invited to two important international federation meetings and the decision to expel the Israeli union was made without any Israeli presence, Shibi said. While there are currently 164 unions affiliated with the IFJ, the number fluctuates regularly, Christiane Denis, IFJ director of administration, told the Post on Thursday. Many new national press organizations applied for IFJ membership, but it was rare for unions to be expelled, Denis said. That typically happened when unions failed to honor financial agreements, and they had the opportunity to appeal, she said. "There has never been a union that has been expelled for political reasons," she said. There had also been instances where unions were suspended for not abiding by the IFJ mandate, but these organizations could be readmitted, she said. The Israeli union has not paid fees in more than five years, according to the international federation. However, the Israeli union said that tensions between the two groups began to rise during the Second Lebanon War three years ago. The union, made up of 800 journalists from across Israel, was being treated unfairly and in a biased manner, Shibi said in an interview with the Post last Sunday. The federation published a report about Operation Cast Lead, but did not contact a single Israeli source, and issued a number of letters throughout January condemning Israel for not allowing journalists to freely cover the campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, he said. "We do hope that the leadership of the IFJ will understand that this is not about money - but about rights to equal and full membership," the five Israeli journalists wrote in the letter to the federation's general secretary.