Foreign Reporters in Israel Protest Censors Tapping Telex, Phone Lines

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel, whose membership includes over 100 foreign and local correspondents representing newspapers, news agencies and radio and television services around the world, has protested to Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Moshe Arens following published reports that censors tap the telephone and telex lines of foreign journalists.

The FPA letter followed a report last week in Maariv quoting a speech by an unnamed censorship official to Tel Aviv high school students in which the charges of wire tapping were made.

The official also said that former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had been responsible for leaking state secrets to an Israel Radio correspondent who then refused to submit the material given him to censorship before his broadcast.

The FPA letter asked: “Is this report (of wire tapping) correct, are our communications monitored? If so, under what legal basis? If there is a legal basis for this under Israeli law, is it the intention of the government that this monitoring continue? If yes, then may we register our most serious concern over what we regard as a continuing serious violation of press freedom?”

When foreign correspondents are accredited they must agree to submit to prior military censorship of items dealing with security matters such as Israeli troop movements and nuclear research. All other articles, including those critical of Israel, can be transmitted freely. Telex transmissions are occasionally interrupted and censors have also cut in on correspondents’ overseas phone calls. Under Israeli law bugging is illegal unless a warrant is issued by the Defense Minister.

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