Dear Sir, QUITE rightly, Ray Fleming writes (‘The Propaganda War', Bulletin Viewpoint, January 8) “Censorship, by whatever means, does not inspire confidence in the veracity of those who impose it”.

In this instance (Mr.) Fleming – renowned to regular Bulletin readers as an unfailing apologist for pro-Islamic extremism – not surprisingly castigates Israel for its refusal to allow media (including its own) entry into Gaza during the conflict.

To infer that Israel's one aim is to deliberately censor Press freedom is risible, since many news organisations – Reuters, Associated Press, United Press International and the BBC among others – operate inside Gaza, where their activities are rigorously controlled by Hamas censors.

There all journalists must register with Hamas's propaganda office and no film, newscopy or recorded interview is allowed to be broadcast abroad without prior approval. Allah help those who disobey! The last time I was there, during Yasser Arafat's rule, similar restrictions existed across the West Bank and journalists with the temerity to criticise the then Palestinian president, however mildly, had their media credentials instantly withdrawn.

To attain sanitised coverage of their regimes, most Muslim countries exercise extreme media censorship and it is common for foreign journalists to have to leave such states before they are free to report their stories.

It is not unusual, either, for Western governments to keep war correspondents at a distance from the front lines of conflicts, since no armed services PR wants the responsibility of a reporter killed or wounded. Which is why the British Army insists on journalists undergoing a ‘conflict survival course' – often taught by the SAS – before being accepted as ‘embedded' in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a journalist, I can entirely appreciate the frustration of correspondents having to cover Gaza from outside – especially when news editors are screaming for fresh copy – but it's my experience that Israel, for the most part, adheres to the convention of Press freedom, regardless of any media criticism that is heaped upon it.

Hugh Ash, Portals Nous


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