IPI Delegation to Examine Foreign Correspondents' Complaints

A delegation of the International Press Institute will arrive in Israel on Sunday for a four-day visit in order to examine the relations between the Government Press Office and the foreign media. The six-person mission will be headed by Mitja Mersol, a member of the IPI Executive Board and the editor-in-chief of Delo, a Ljubljana daily.

The delegation will meet with the director of the Government Press Office, Danny Seaman; the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, Dan Perry; CNN bureau chief Mike Hannah; NBC bureau chief Martin Fletcher; the president of the Israel Press Council, Mordechai Kremnitzer; the Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin; Justice Minister Yosef Lapid; Interior Minister Avraham Poraz; and the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz. A reception will be held for the delegation upon its arrival, with the participation of local media personnel and members of academe.

The mission is visiting Israel in the wake of the protracted crisis between the foreign press corps and the director of the GPO, and following reports that reached IPI about difficulties being encountered by members of the media and by foreign correspondents in Israel. During the two and a half years of Danny Seaman’s tenure as GPO chief, friction of an unprecedented character has developed between the GPO, which is supposed to serve the foreign press and make the technical arrangements for its activity, and the foreign correspondents who avail themselves of the GPO’s services.

The situation today, to the chagrin of the foreign press, is that press cards are not issued to Palestinian reporters who are employed by the foreign media. Foreign media representatives who want to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are required to employ Israelis in their crews, which often hampers their work in the territories.

In addition, foreign correspondents have been finding it difficult to obtain work permits since the GPO stopped arranging the permits and transferred this function to the government Employment Service. Seaman himself has used sharp language against the foreign media on a number of occasions, claiming that it serves the Palestinian side and is hostile to Israel.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute is today the leading organization in promoting freedom of the press and ensuring that journalists can work safely all over the world. Its members include journalists, editors and publishers from 110 countries. The IPI monitors violations of freedom of the press and attacks on correspondents wherever they occur, and publishes detailed reports based on investigations its staff conducts.

If required, the organization approaches the leaders of countries where violations have occurred to urge that freedom of the press be upheld there and tries to find solutions that will enable reporters to do their work freely. Recently, for example, the IPI was in touch with the presidents of Bangladesh and South Africa after journalists in the two countries were hampered in doing their work. The IPI also expressed its concern over restrictions placed on press freedom in Serbia following the assassination of the prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, on March 12.

In addition to Mersol, the delegation consists of Johann Fritz, the director of IPI; Raymond Louw, editor and publisher of Southern Africa Report, Johannesburg, and chairman of the IPI South African National Committee; Stuart Loory, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies, School of Journalism, University of Missouri, and editor of IPI Global Journalist; Nils Oy, secretary-general of the Association of Norwegian Editors, Oslo, and a member of the IPI Norwegian National Committee; and Reinhard Meier, of the Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Switzerland.