Foreign journalists in Ulpana neighborhood
Foreign journalists in Ulpana neighborhoodYoni Kempinski

New IDF policy regarding home demolitions is hurting Israeli journalists’ work, the Organization of Journalists in Israel (Itonaim) charged Tuesday. In a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Itonaim head Yair Tirchesky said the new policy unreasonably limits journalists’ movements in Judea and Samaria.

Recently, while removing tents put up by Arab protesters in Maaleh Adumim, IDF soldiers declared the entire area a closed military zone – and did not allow Israeli reporters to enter.

Declaring an area that is to be cleared out a “closed military zone” is standard practice, and is aimed at both providing a legal basis for the eviction of activists who refuse to leave voluntarily, and at preventing others from joining them in resisting police. However, Tirchesky noted, reporters are normally allowed to enter the area and to stand in an agreed-upon point in order to document the events unfolding without impeding officers’ work.

What happened this time, he said, is that “the removal of the tents was covered by Palestinian and foreign journalists in the area, who even broadcast the eviction with a live video feed on the internet, but not by Israeli journalists, who were prevented from entering the area.”

The military must beware of infringing on media freedom, he warned. Media freedom “is vital to any democratic state, particularly in situations involving conflict, where there must be oversight of state bodies’ behavior,” he argued.

He asked Gantz to meet in order to discuss the matter.