Fractious ex-GPO Head Secures Senior Post at Ministry

Fractious former director of the Government Press Office secures senior post at ministry under auspices of the Prime Minister's Office, despite opposition from the director general.

Danny Seaman, the controversial former director of the Government Press Office, was recently appointed deputy director general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry and has been serving in the position for a week.

Foreign journalists and media outlets have repeatedly accused Seaman of withholding press passes or otherwise discriminating against journalists or media outlets whose coverage of Israel he disliked or found overly critical. They say he gave preference to those he considered favorable to Israel, and foreign embassies have also filed complaints against him.

seaman - Eyal Toueg - February 9 2011
Eyal Toueg

Government officials would not give a straight answer when asked if Seaman would have anything to do with the press office, which he left in September after a decade at its helm because he did not win a tender to continue in his position.

Officials at the Public Diplomacy Ministry, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office, said Seaman won the tender for the job despite opposition from the director general, adding that it would be up to Seaman to define the new position.

Shortly after Seaman took charge of the press office, he held up the work visa of a Reuters journalist with Jordanian roots, prompting the Jordanian Embassy to ask the Foreign Ministry to intervene.

He also said Israel was boycotting the BBC "to protest its biased and hostile coverage policy."

In 2002 Reporters Without Borders said the GPO had refused to renew the accreditation of many Palestinian journalists that year, while others were granted accreditation for only a few months at a time or were not given full accreditation.

In 2006, Canadian-Israeli blogger and journalist Lisa Goldman accused Seaman of using abusive language when she tried to renew her press pass. She said he repeatedly threatened to have her investigated by the Shin Bet security service because, he told her, he was enjoying himself and she was asking too many questions.

She says that when she asked to speak to a superior he told her: "I don't have a boss. I'm not accountable to anyone. I make all the rules. And just the fact that you have asked me this question means you'll never receive a GPO card again."

Despite the complaints, the spokesman for the Civil Service Commission said the fact that Seaman won the tender to get the job shows that "there is no problem with his appointment."

Seaman's successor as GPO director, Oren Helman, said he would be happy to work with him in the future. He dismissed the many complaints against Seaman.

"They complained about him like they complained about many others, and as I guess they'll complain in the future as well," he said.