Frontline World


Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "In the Line of Fire"

When Journalists Become Targets

Charting Worldwide Risks

Hazards for Reporters Working in the West Bank and Gaza

Interview with Committee to Protect Journalists

Danny Seaman and Gideon Levy

Press freedom, slain journalists, background




Divergent Israeli Views: Interview with Danny Seaman

Danny Seaman in a press conference

Danny Seaman:
The journalists claim to know exactly what they're doing. But when they go into a closed military area (and then) are eventually shot or injured as a result of the combat going on, who do they turn around and accuse? The Israelis.

The moment they're shot -- and most times they're not shot by Israelis -- they turn around and accuse the state of Israel. They're sort of playing this game that they have to be allowed access. All right. They're allowed access.

But when comes the time of combat, a country has its first and major goal as coming out victorious. Later on the truth will tend to itself. I'm not worried about that, especially in a country like the state of Israel. There are no secrets in this country. We have freedom of the press. The foreign press here have more access to anything than any other country in the world, including in the United States.

Patricia Naylor:
If you ask the Foreign Press Association, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the head of AP, Reuters, AFP, they all say it's the worst they've seen, that there's an erosion of press freedom.

Excuse me, but bovine feces. That really irritates me. They know there is (no erosion). But they also know that Israel is a country that is very concerned about its public image. When we're in a fight for our lives, sometimes we're going to have to limit some of these freedoms they were given, only for a period of time. We're not cracking down on journalists, we're not arresting journalists, we're not keeping them from going to these areas ... .

(What about) the journalists who have been arrested?

Who? You're talking about Palestinians we know to be collaborating with the Palestinian Authority. Those who we found that there was nothing to these accusations were released. (But those who do) not work in a professional way will not be treated professionally by the state of Israel. I'm not talking mistakes, everybody makes mistakes -- even people in the government, surprising as it may sound.

So I don't challenge every journalist for everything that they are going to write or report. But if you look over a period of time and you see that they are not objective and they have an agenda -- and you can see this after a while working with them -- then it's in our rights not to cooperate and not to work with them.

(With) the Palestinians, we have no cooperation with them at all. We have no reason to work with people who are not objective journalists, who deliberately use freedom of the press against the state of Israel.

Danny Seaman in a press conference


People at the news bureaus here feel that the bigger problem is the suppression of the press on the Israeli side, not (from) the Palestinians.

Absolutely ridiculous. They should look into the fact: Why can't Israelis work (in Palestinian-controlled territory)? Because the lives of Israelis have been threatened by the Palestinians over the past five years, not only since the violence began. Yet nobody in the foreign press stood up against this ... .

The second thing is that their so-called journalists have not been upholding any of the principles of professional journalism, but have succumbed to the pressures of the Palestinian Authority. But it's been inconvenient for the members of the foreign press (to acknowledge this) because they had Arab-speaking people who have access in the Palestinian areas, and they cost them one-sixth of the price (it) would cost to bring in somebody from abroad.

With all due respect to the members of the foreign press here, I'm really angry at the fact that they would even question Israel's democracy, the fact that they roam around here freely, that they have access to everything and they never look at themselves in a critical way.

I think it's the intimidation ... .

What intimidation?

(Being) shot at ... .

Only in areas where there was combat, and they were not supposed to be there.

Gideon Levy's car was shot at.

He's not foreign press, (so) I don't have to answer that ... .

I'm not saying that there weren't any (incidents), but if you look at the number of points of friction and at the access the journalists have here, compared to other locations in the world, there is more press here per capita than anywhere else in the world.

If you go to the cases investigated by the Committee to Protect Journalists or other organizations, out of the 40-some cases, until this year, there were about 11 with members of the foreign press. Eleven cases! And you're talking about tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of locations. I don't want to belittle it. But I think in all fairness you should look at that. If you compare it to other points of friction in the world and you compare this to the number of press here, I think it's really (at a) minimum.

Back to Gideon Levy. He says that soldiers can shoot at journalists and they're not investigated.

I don't agree.

He says he was shot at, (and) it was as easy as lighting a cigarette.

In his particular case, it was a problem. But there was a reason why it happened. The chain of command was not followed. But the soldier behaved according to the order that he had at that moment.

Levy said, "The truth is that none of these shootings of Palestinians are investigated -- whether they are journalists or not journalists."

I don't know about nonjournalists, but in journalists' cases, yes, they are investigated ... .

Gideon Levy also says that unlike the first intifada, there are (now) no serious investigations into shootings.

I don't want to say "first intifada," "second intifada" -- "intifada" is another nice term meant to beautify what the Palestinians are doing. There's a war against the state of Israel. There's a war on the survival of the state of Israel by the Palestinians. There's no comparison between the Palestinian uprising or violence of 12 years ago and what's been going on in the past two years.

The past two years has been an assault against the state of Israel. It's combat. And in this combat almost every Palestinian is engaged in one way or another, either deliberately or (being) used by the Palestinian Authority.

They take advantage of everything that we uphold as dear and sacred in the Western world and they use that to manipulate it against us. So to come and try to impose the values of Western principles on the values of combat going on right now, (that's) not the situation. I'm sorry. This is not a civilian uprising. This is not a police situation. It's war.

next: Naylor's interview with Gideon Levy

return to the introduction

react to this interview

back to top