P.A. Cancels Journalists Tour to Jericho

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The Palestinian Authority canceled a field tour of foreign journalists to Jericho, MediaCentral announced on Tuesday.

MediaCentral - a media-liaison organization headquartered in Jerusalem - provides support services for foreign journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The organization has sponsored day tours to PA-controlled cities in Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - where journalists are often briefed by government officials and have opportunites to meet and sometimes interview local residents.

Though the tour had been coordinated with PA Minister of Tourism Dr. Kholoud Daibis, who was scheduled to address the group, PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said "journalists coming through an Israeli organization are not welcome."

MediaCentral director Aryeh Green said he was "concerned and appalled" at the decision.

"In four years of providing professional, credible services to the foreign press based in or visiting Israel and the PA, I am concerned and appalled that a representative of the Palestinian Authority would lay down such an exclusionary and divisive policy," Green said.

"The PA - interested in promoting coverage of subjects such as the history of a city like Jericho, with its multi-faceted and multi-religious layers of settlement - has in the past been a partner with MediaCentral in helping foreign correspondents develop a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of the issues surrounding the conflict(s) in this region," he said.

"I very much hope this is not a new and worrying step in the hardening of a Palestinian anti-Israel stance, a reflection of mounting restrictions on freedom of the press in the Palestinian areas," Green said.

Meanwhile, Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, has been systematically cracking down on reporters and media-affiliated organizations.

Two weeks ago, Hamas security forces raided the headquarters of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, confiscated computers and other equipment and detained several members for questioning.

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