WASHINGTON (Nov. 5)
Three accredited Israeli correspondents in Washington have accused State Department officials of cooperating with Egyptian officials in discriminatory practices that hampered their coverage of President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Washington and other American cities.
Dan Margalit, of Haaretz, Nissim Kivity, of Yediot Achronot and Jacob Achmier of the Israel State Radio, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that they encountered obstacles in carrying out their assignments as professional journalists during the Sadat tour.
But a fourth Israeli reporter, Samuel Segev of Maariv, said he saw no evidence of discrimination on the part of U.S. officials and said the only place where Israeli reporters were barred was at Blair House, the official residence for visiting heads of state, which was occupied by Sadat and his entourage. According to Segev, that was not a departure from normal procedure since visiting heads of state decide whom to invite.
FORMAL PROTEST LODGED
The National Federation of Israeli Journalists lodged a formal protest with U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon in Tel Aviv yesterday charging that Israeli reporters were barred from covering events connected with Sadat’s American visit in violation of the principles of freedom of the press. They asked the American envoy to convey “our strongest protest to the White House, the State Department and the Press Association in Washington.”
CHARGE SYSTEMATIC EXCLUSION
Margalit, Kivity and Achmier told the JTA that they were systematically excluded from press conferences held by Sadat in Jacksonville, Houston and Chicago; that when they managed to gain entry they were closely scrutinized by State Department personnel to prevent them from asking questions that might have embarrassed the Egyptian leader; and that they were denied seats in buses carrying American and Egyptian reporters and refused access to press planes, forcing them to use commercial flights.
Achmier said that he “blames first the Egyptians, then the U.S. State Department and finally American reporters assigned to the Sadat tour who knew what was going on but are not saying anything.”
Segev, who limited his coverage to Sadat’s stay in Washington, said, however, that he “saw no attempt on the part of the U.S. Administration to bar entry or access of any Israeli correspondent to any function connected with the visit,” He said, “Personally, I was able to get into the White House during the welcome ceremony (for Sadat), later during the State Dinner to hear the toasts and at the State Department where Secretary Kissinger hosted a luncheon for the Egyptian President.” Segev said he made no attempt to gain entry to Blair House.
Kivity said that reporters entering Blair House for a Sadat press conference were screened at the door by George Sherman, the State Department’s information specialist on the Middle East. He said reporters had to show telegrams inviting them to the meeting but a number without telegrams were admitted and five reporters from the Soviet news agency Tass got in on one telegram.
Kivity said that he and five other reporters were locked out. He said he learned later that Sherman told another reporter that Kivity was not admitted because Sadat was not to be asked embarrassing questions, Kivity said, however, that “in all fairness to Sherman, he was quite friendly and cooperative on the whole and was not ignoring us except on those occasions where the Israelis could perhaps have had the chance of addressing President Sadat,”
Nevertheless, Kivity told the JTA, “If the Egyptians wanted to bar the Israelis from their press conference it is their right because Blair-House was temporarily their territory, My objection is that the State Department should not have taken any stand. They should have stayed neutral and should have let the Egyptians decide themselves,”
Segev told the JTA that “At the National press Club” where Sadat spoke and answered questions, “I know of no Israeli correspondent who was denied access because of being an Israeli,”
A State Department source told the JTA today that “everything that was organized by the Americans” on Sadat’s tour “was open to coverage for all accredited reporters.” He said the Egyptians “ran their own affairs,” He said buses and planes carrying reporters had been chartered by the Egyptian Embassy.