Israeli journalists condemn ‘one-sided’ IFJ

The following is a statement issued by the Israeli journalists unions.  Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists has issued a statement on its mission to the region which you can read in full here.  And journalists in Gaza are also displeased with the IFJ’s mission — read about their concerns here.

The Tel-Aviv Journalists’ Association and the Journalists’ Association in Jerusalem strongly condemn and outrightly reject the inaccurate statement of condemnation issued by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) regarding “the rejection by the Israeli government of an entry visa” for Younes Mjahed, Senior Vice President of the IFJ and the President of Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine (SNPM).

Over three months ago, Aidan White, the General Secretary of the IFJ, informed us that they are “thinking of sending a mission to follow up on the concerns arising from media concerns over the Gaza blockade.” Mr. White also stated: “We shall come to Israel to meet with you both in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. We shall also try to go to Gaza and the West Bank to meet with PJS colleagues. The aim will be to focus on the problems for all journalists — local and international — and what can be done to ease the situation.”  Mr. White wrote that they are putting together some terms of reference for the mission and that they shall contact us before anything is finalized.

Five weeks ago we received a message from the IFJ, that “there is a plan for an IFJ mission to travel to Palestine on 12-16 September which will also include visiting Jerusalem on 16th and meeting with you”. We expressed our dissatisfaction about the change to the agenda of the mission – leaving us an insufficient time slot to seriously address the issues at hand- and kindly asked to receive, as soon as possible, the terms of reference for the planned mission.

It was only after three more weeks that we received an answer. Under the terms of reference for the mission - sent to us after a considerable delay - we realized that conclusions had already been prepared in advance. Naturally, we could not accept a mission designed to serve political needs, rather than engage the implications of the complex reality of our region on the work of journalists. We asked the Executive Committee to consider re-phrasing the terms, but we received no response.
Unfortunately and above all, the IFJ also failed to inform us that one of the delegates, Mr. Younes Mjahed, is a Moroccan citizen, required  to attain a visa prior to arrival in Israel. The latter failed to apply in due course to the relevant authorities for the required visa.  After extensive investigation, we found out that his visa application was only submitted last Tuesday (7/9/10), a day before the Jewish New Year, leaving only one working day (!) to process it.

Typically and globally, visa application processes takes several weeks. We would like to express sorrow that Mr. Mjahed did not give this vital matter the required attention which naturally impeded his active participation in the IFJ delegation in the West Bank and Israel. We are outraged by  FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman’s malicious statement which, not only did not take any responsibility for the unprofessional organization of this delegation but also states that “We can only believe that this is part of a wider campaign of repression against freedom of expression and the movement of journalists carried out steadily by the Israeli regime”.
In this context, it is important to emphasize that the Tel-Aviv Journalists’ Association and the Journalists’ Association in Jerusalem are independent bodies which have never been involved theoretically or actively in any Israeli government policy making and implementation and strongly strive for freedom of expression and movement for all journalists throughout the world.
The NIFJ has proved its willingness, dedication and ability to give a hand to our colleagues, as we did with the Flotilla case.

We are of course aware of the difficulties faced by our colleagues in the Palestinian Authority and we would be delighted to strengthen our relationship with them. However, and to our great sorrow, despite repeated attempts on our part, we have not yet been able to generate a productive dialogue with them. We, therefore, truly hope that the IFJ and its leaders will prioritize this goal and work tirelessly to promote such an open dialogue instead of pursuing a one-sided biased attitude which draws conclusions without objective investigation that not only creates unnecessary tension and hostility but also harms any perspective hope for the reconciliation and the fraternity of the Israeli and the Palestinian journalists.

Danny Zaken
Journalists Association in Jerusalem

Avi Paz
Tel-Aviv Journalists Association