The Israeli defence ministry’s Crossing Points Authority imposed the ban on 12 May after the Israeli military began launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’s decision to fire rockets into Israel amid continuing clashes between Palestinians, settlers and Israeli police in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The authority has left the ban in place ever since.
By obstructing coverage, the ban is preventing international public opinion from being properly informed about what is happening on the ground in the Gaza Strip and is fuelling suspicion that the Israeli authorities want to cover up the impact of their airstrikes.
From this standpoint, it is the counterpart of the targeted destruction of some 20 Palestinian, regional and international media outlets in the Gaza Strip, which RSF has already condemned, and which is compounded by the vulnerability of Palestinian reporters during the airstrikes, some of whose homes have been destroyed in the past few days.
“The destruction of media outlets and the ban on foreign reporters entered the Gaza Strip suggest that the Israeli authorities want to conceal the reality on the ground there,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“The destruction and the ban are preventing the international media from establishing the facts and are extremely detrimental to balanced press coverage of what is a devastating conflict for the civilian populations. We call for the lifting of the ban on access to the Gaza Strip for foreign reporters, which is a manifest violation of press freedom. The arguments offered by Israel are spurious. It is not up to this country’s government to decide for journalists whether or not they go to Gaza. We urge the Israeli authorities to allow foreign journalists access to the Gaza Strip.”
By preventing the international media from entering the Gaza Strip to verify the facts for themselves, the ban is making them particularly vulnerable to disinformation. When the Israeli military announced on 14 May that its ground forces had begun attacking inside the Gaza Strip, this was reported by international news agencies and newspapers, only to see the information retracted two hours later.
As a result of the reports of a ground invasion, Hamas fighters gathered inside a network of tunnels in northern Gaza that were then bombarded by Israeli jets, prompting condemnation by several media outlets that felt they had been manipulated.
Israel is ranked 86th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.