Israel warned foreign journalists on Sunday they could be barred from the country for 10 years if they board a new flotilla that plans to challenge an Israeli naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
In a statement sent by email to Reuters and other international news organizations, Oren Helman, director of Israel's Government Press Office, said participation in the flotilla would be "an intentional violation" of Israeli law.
A year ago, nine Turkish activists, including one with dual U.S.-Turkish nationality, were killed by Israeli soldiers who raided a Gaza-bound aid convoy and were confronted by passengers wielding clubs and knives.
Pro-Palestinian activists have said ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip could depart from European ports in the coming days.
Helman said that sailing in a new flotilla "is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions."
The Foreign Press Association on Sunday urged the government to reverse its threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla, saying that the move "sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel's commitment to freedom of the press."Freedom of the Press - like other freedoms - is not absolute. It does not include the right to become part of the story, nor does it include the right to allow oneself to be used as a human shield at no risk. via israelmatzav.blogspot.com
The statement added, "Journalists covering a legitimate news event should be allowed to do their jobs without threats and intimidation," calling on the government to "reverse its decision immediately."