Shin Bet Vetting of Press Cards Scrapped

The Prime Minister's Office and Government Press Office yesterday decided to freeze the new directives issued by the GPO regarding applications for press cards.

The Prime Minister's Office and Government Press Office yesterday decided to freeze the new directives issued by the GPO regarding applications for press cards. The new directives required, among other things, sending journalists' details to the Shin Bet for approval.

The editors of the nation's three leading newspapers - Hanoch Marmari of Haaretz, Moshe Vardi of Yedioth Ahronoth and Amnon Dankner of Maariv, backed by Foreign Press Association chairman Dan Perry - yesterday met and decided to reject the new forms issued by the Government Press Office for applying for a press card.

The new application procedure includes sending applications to the Shin Bet for what GPO head Daniel Seaman said was routine security clearance.

Seaman, the controversial acting head of the Government Press Office who publicly battled with foreign correspondents, failed to pass an internal tender for the high-ranking government job and will soon be replaced, government sources said yesterday.

The sources said that Seaman was the only contender in the August tender for the job of GPO director, a position he has held for the last three years on an acting basis after being appointed to it by Gilad Sher, former premier Ehud Barak's chief of staff.

Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander recently told Avigdor Yitzhaki, who as director general of the Prime Minister's Office is Seaman's direct boss, that it was unacceptable for Seaman to hold an acting position for so long.

Seaman said last night that he lost the tender because the deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry was out to get him, and that he was being "sacrificed" for simply fulfilling the policy set by the Prime Minister's Office. But a government source told Haaretz last night that Seaman's sour and combative relations with the foreign press, combined with the harsh response to the new press accreditation rules he recently announced, had harmed Israel's relations with the press internationally and locally.

The source said Seaman did not win the tender in August because there was a feeling in the PMO that his pressure on the foreign press was unnecessarily harsh. Seaman has accused foreign correspondents of working for the Palestinian Authority and claimed in a Kol Ha'ir interview that as a result of boycotts he instituted against journalists he regarded as hostile, they were posted elsewhere in the world, something that the reporters and newspapers he mentioned, subsequently denied.

The government source said a new tender would be issued for the GPO director's job - and last night Seaman said he would compete again for the job.