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Arens Hints About Circumscribing Freedom of Israeli Journalists to Report from Lebanon

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Defense Minister Moshe Arens hinted that the Israel government might take steps, similar to those taken by the United States in Grenada and by Britain in the Falklands campaigns, to circumscribe journalists’ freedom to report from Lebanon and interview Israel Defense Force troops there.

Arens last night launched a sharp attack on the Israeli print and electronic media for allegedly distorting the news about Israel’s activities in Lebanon. Addressing the 11th graduating class of officers and senior civil servants from the National Defense College, the Defense Minister said the media distortions were making it more difficult for Israel to conduct the war in Lebanon.

He rejected some media comparisons betweens Israel’s actions in Lebanon and those of the U.S. in Vietnam. Arens pointed out that Vietnam was thousands of miles away from America’s shores and that withdrawal by the U.S. was possible without any danger to the U.S., whereas only a border line separated Israel from Lebanon.

Arens said he had been misquoted on a number of occasions and journalists had continued writing untruths even after army spokesmen had corrected their statements.

In response, the military correspondents’ section of the Israel Journalists Association criticized Arens for utilizing the forum of the college, usually used for philosophical discussions at graduating exercises, to attack the media.

The flap came in the midst of accusations by Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami yesterday that Israel was using “inhumane” practices in south Lebanon and that he would complain about them to the United Nations. Israel rejected the accusations and blamed Syria and Lebanon for difficulties in the area.

At issue is the Israeli announcement that it will close the Bater crossing point in the Shouf mountains for three days starting tomorrow, cutting off the south from the north in an effort to halt terrorist infiltration and daily attacks on Israeli forces. A military source said Israeli guards at Bater discovered booby-trapped cars and other explosives coming into south Lebanon.

Meanwhile, three Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded yesterday when a roadside bomb exploded as their convoy passed on the road south of Jezzine. There were several other attacks on IDF units during the past 24 hours, but there were no casualties.

Shots were fired today at an IDF patrol two kilometers north of Nabatiya from a passing car. Soldiers returned fire, but the car sped away before it could be stopped. A grenade was thrown at another patrol in the Nabatiya area, but a search for the assailants was unsuccessful.

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