The Government Press Office is trying to rescind Elias Karram’s press credentials after he expressed support for the Palestinian cause. It hasn’t done the same for uniformed Israeli-soldier reporters.
Israel’s Government Press Office announced Wednesday that it was revoking press credentials from a senior Al Jazeera reporter in the country.
The GPO cited a statement he allegedly made over a year ago as its reason for revoking the credentials of Elias Karram, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Nazareth. “As a Palestinian journalist in an occupied area or in a conflict zone, media work is an integral part of the resistance and its educational political activity,” Karram said in an Arabic-language May 2016 interview. “The journalist fulfills his role in the opposition with the pen, voice or camera because he is part of this people and he carries out resistance in his unique way.”
The final decision on Karram’s case depends on the outcome of a formal hearing.
In a statement announcing the revocation of Karram’s credentials, GPO Director Nitzan Chen asserted that journalists with a GPO card are required to follow the “rules of ethics and universal fairness regarding news reporting,” and that “whoever takes an active part in a political struggle” must do so without a GPO card.
A review of the GPO’s own rules for the provision of press cards, however, makes no mention of ethics or fairness.
Who is a legitimate journalist?
Carrying a GPO card gives journalists access to official events, the scenes of newsworthy incidents, is often a condition for cooperation from official spokespeople, and offers protection from arrest while covering protests. In other words, government accreditation makes reporting much safer and more effective. (Foreign journalists must have the GPO’s endorsement in order to even receive a visa to work in Israel.)
But by giving itself the power to decide who is a legitimate journalist, the GPO (which operates as part of the Prime Minister’s Office) also inherently gets to decide who is not a legitimate journalist. And as with any decision made by government bureaucrats subordinate to politicians, such decisions can at times be driven by political considerations.
But the GPO is not only an office charged with accrediting and liaising with journalists. It is also a political propaganda organ of the Israeli government. According to a December 2014 Knesset report on official hasbara (propaganda) efforts, “The GPO tries to promote the State of Israel’s hasbara in its...Read More