Press freedom group: Rescind Gaza restrictions

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Reporters Without Borders is worried by the Gaza interior ministry’s adoption of new rules for foreign journalists that will restrict their access to the Gaza Strip, the group said Wednesday.

Under the new rules, adopted in September, every foreign journalist wanting to visit the Gaza Strip will have to apply in advance to the interior ministry in Gaza, and processing the application could take several days.

“Reporters Without Borders believes the new rules will restrict journalists’ freedom of movement and complicate covering the Gaza Strip even more,” the group said in a statement.

“It therefore urges the authorities to rescind the decision and facilitate the international media’s access to the Gaza Strip.”

The Gaza government said the new measures were needed for security and control purposes.

Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni’s murder by an armed group on April 15 has heightened concern about the safety of foreigners in Gaza.

Journalists submitting applications will have to include a photocopy of their passport and ID photos, and will have to name a “guarantor” in the Gaza Strip, Reporters Without Borders says. They will also have to enter the territory via Gaza because, as deputy interior minister Kamel Abu Madhi announced, the Rafah and Erez crossings have been closed.

Members of the Foreign Press Association nonetheless voiced a degree of optimism after a meeting yesterday with the head of the Gaza press office, Hassan Abu Hashish.

Some said the need for initial authorization and the waiting period could mean that journalists would be able to get accreditation valid for a year.

( / 05.10.2011)

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