The Foreign Press Association in Israel was happy to see the Israeli government rescinding its threat to expel and even boycott journalists who cover the Gaza flotilla. It’s important to understand that the decision was illogical to begin with. For some reason, the government attempted to apply the same attitude to journalists doing their job and to pro-Palestinian activists on board the ships. Yet that was never the case.
Journalists from different countries wish to cover the flotilla because it is a legitimate news story. Following the bloodshed in last year’s flotilla, people worldwide want to know what will happen this time around. An attempt to prevent journalists from joining the current flotilla would not have prevented coverage of this event.
Instead, it would have simply forced legitimate news organizations to violate the law and risk grave punishment, or rely on the activists on board the vessels for information.
It is fully in the public’s interest to allow professional and objective journalists – who are not a party to the affair and therefore are not biased – to present the story to the whole world. The coverage of a news event, legitimate or not, does not turn the journalist into an active side in the story.
After all, foreign journalists who work in Israel cross the lines of the conflict every day, interview Israeli and Palestinian leaders – including Hamas members – assume personal risk in joining the army’s operational activity in order to observe military drills, and travel to Arab states in order to cover the “Arab Spring.”
In no way does it mean that these foreign journalists pick sides. They merely cover events.
Freedom of information is in the interest of any free society. Citizens of the world cannot make wise decisions without credible, immediate information. Many journalists from across the world work long hours every day, at times while risking their lives, in order to bring the truth to the public. We hope that instead of attempting to hinder and obstruct us, the Israeli government will continue to embrace and support this vital mission.
The writer is the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel