These folks are courageous to be working as they do in a war zone; but people like Khalid Amayreh and Gideon Levy have been doing it for decades, not once letting up on the militarily-occupying State. So the question is, will these outspoken champions of press freedom maintain this level of consciousness once all this has blown over? Pay attention to the words of AP's W. Jerusalem bureau chief, Steve Gutkin, especially his final quotation; then check back here in about 2–3 weeks' time.
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By Shawna Ohm ∙ AP via Wiredispatch ∙ November 27, 2008
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - The Israeli government has offered no plausible explanation for its unprecedented ban on international journalists entering the Gaza Strip, representatives of the foreign media said at a news conference Thursday.
Earlier this week, the Foreign Press Association, which represents international media operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories, asked Israel's Supreme Court to overturn the travel ban. The court gave the government 15 days to respond.
Leaders of the world's biggest media organizations filed a protest with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, urging the government to lift the ban - imposed after a 5-month-old truce began unraveling three weeks ago in a flurry of Israeli airstrikes against militants and Palestinian rocket barrages targeting Israeli towns.
Those signing the letter included AP Chief Executive and President Tom Curley, Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, ABC News President David Westin, BBC News Director Helen Boaden and other top executives from CNN, the Canadian TV network CTV, the German broadcaster ZDF, and the French news service Agence France Presse.
Israeli Defense Ministry Shlomo Dror has mentioned what he called unfair Gaza coverage when speaking about the ban, and other officials have cited security concerns for the denial of access.
"The safety argument falls down when you go to Erez crossing and you see an old sick woman crossing Erez in a wheel chair, and if it's safe enough for her, it's safe enough for me and my staff," said British Broadcasting Company journalist Jo Floto.
"Israel cherishes the freedom of the press," he said. "All journalists who work in Israel know that freedom for a fact."
"We don't want Gaza to join that very select and regrettable club," he said.
In the past two weeks, coverage in Gaza has been largely left to local Palestinian staffers and a handful of foreign journalists who entered before the closure went into effect, including two AP reporters.
"Now Israel has a chance to match those words with policy," Gutkin said.[wiredispatch.com/news/?id=468771]