[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Israel [official website] on Sunday ordered [PDF text, in Hebrew] that foreign reporters be given open access to the Gaza Strip unless there is a "concrete" danger to their safety. The court gave the order in response to a petition filed by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) [association website], which claimed foreign reporters had been denied access to the area before, during and after the country's recent conflict [BBC materials] with Gaza Strip combatants. According to those denied access, government officials said the ban was for their own safety, but there has been speculation that the restrictions were also imposed to prevent reporting critical of Israel. In response to the order, the FPA released a statement [FPA materials] praising the decision:
The FPA welcomes today's ruling from the Supreme Court endorsing the principle of unfettered access to the Gaza Strip for the international media. We believe this decision upholds Israel's own stated commitment to freedom of the press. The denial for such access in recent months represented a clear violation of that commitment and we are hopeful that such a situation will not recur. This is a noteworthy decision for freedom of access to journalists in situations of conflict.An official for the Israeli Government Press Office [official website], quoted by the Jerusalem Post, downplayed the order [report], arguing that a ban had not actually been in place.
Israel has faced allegations that some of its actions against Palestinians during the conflict constituted war crimes, and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert [official website] has pledged to protect [statement; JURIST report] members of its military against prosecution by outside authorities. Last week, Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes [JURIST report], citing the use of white phosphorous in the midst of a dense civilian population. International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said the ICC lacks jurisdiction [JURIST report] to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel, because it is not a member state.