Correspondents don't buy gov't's claim that budget concerns precluded press corps presence.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Why didn't Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas take any Palestinian journalists with him on his tour to the US?
Sources close to Abbas said on Tuesday that the decision was taken to save expenses, pointing out that taking journalists to Washington would have cost the PA budget tens of thousands of dollars.
However, many journalists in Ramallah dismissed the claim as "nonsense" and noted that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has always invited Israeli journalists to accompany him on his visits to the US and elsewhere.
Bassem Abu Sumayah, director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, condemned as "unjustified" Abbas's decision to keep the journalists at home. "This is a sign of bad organization and management," he said. "The Israeli and American media are in high gear for the visit, while the Palestinian national media is deliberately being sidestepped. This is a mistake."
Abu Sumayyah, who was appointed to his job a few months ago, dismissed as unacceptable claims that the PA was seeking to save public money by barring journalists from traveling to Washington. "This is a silly excuse," he added. "The president's visit to a superpower and his meeting with its leader is an important event that should be measured according to its political, not financial value."
Other journalists described as scandalous the fact that no representative of the Palestinian media had been invited to join Abbas's entourage. "This is a spit in our face," said one. "Our leaders care more about CNN and al-Jazeera than their own media."