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Israeli Government Press Office officials have suspended the
credentials of an Italian journalist over a statement he published in a
noted Palestinian Authority newspaper in which he blamed the filming of
a Palestinian mob killing two Israel Defense Force reserve soldiers on
another Italian TV station and essentially promised never to portray
Palestinian violence in a negative light.

The soldiers, who were brutally lynched by a Palestinian mob at a
Palestinian Authority police station in Ramallah Oct. 12, were
non-combatant drivers, the Israeli Government Press Office said. One was
a 38-year-old father of three and the other a 33-year-old newlywed.

Palestinian, with bloodied hands, waves to supporters from a
window of the police station in Ramallah where two Israeli army
reservists were lynched.

At issue, the press office said, is an advertisement placed by
Riccardo Cristiano — the Mideast representative for RAI, the official
state-owned Italian television station — in the Oct. 16 edition of the
Al Hayat al Jedida newspaper, “considered the main newspaper of the
Palestinian Authority,” Israeli officials said.

The Cristiano ad — which the Government Press Office suspects was
paid for by the Palestinian Authority — “is evidence of the double
standard which has come to characterize much of the reporting of the
recent violence in the territories,” said a GPO statement.

In the ad, Cristiano, the Italian journalist, said, “My dear friends
in Palestine … We congratulate you and think that it is our duty to
put you in the picture (of the events) of what happened on October 12 in
Ramallah.

“One of the private Italian television stations which competes with
us … filmed the events,” the ad said. “Afterwards, Israeli television
broadcast the pictures, as taken from one of the Italian stations, and
thus the public impression was created as if we (RAI) took these
pictures.

“We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way,”
the ad continued, “because we always respect (will continue to respect)
the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for
(journalistic) work in Palestine. …”

Cristiano added, “We thank you for your trust, and you can be sure
that this is not our way of acting. We do not (will not) do such at
thing. Please accept our dear blessings.”

According to Israel’s Government Press Office — citing “reporters’
evidence” on the scene in Ramallah — “not only did the Palestinian
police not protect the two men (IDF reservists) slaughtered while in
their custody in the Ramallah police station, but they also tried to
prevent foreign journalists in the area around the building from filming
the event.”

Since the lynching, the GPO said, “the official Palestinian
broadcasting stations have made every effort to hide the horrible
pictures which were shown around the world.”

Israeli press officials said Cristiano’s letter indicates that his
coverage of events between Jews and Palestinians could be decidedly
anti-Israel.

“In the aforementioned letter, Mr. Cristiano declared that he had
acted according to the PA’s working rules for journalists,” Israel’s
press office said. However, “his letter implies that he will never again
film events which are liable to cast a negative light on the PA, such as
the recent lynching.”

The GPO said Israel, “as a democratic society,” values freedom of the
press and the work performed by foreign journalists.

Nevertheless, “all that we ask from foreign journalists is that they
abide by the rules of press ethics as is accepted in democratic
societies,” and work to reduce the bias in their reports, the statement
said.

The GPO said it planned to “summon” Cristiano to its offices, “where
he will be requested to explain his letter.”

IDF officials said the two reservists — who lost direction and
strayed into the Palestinian community — said their arrest by PA police
officers was “in and of itself an illegal act.”

“The Interim Agreement expressly forbids the detention of Israelis
and the confiscation of their firearms,” army officials said. “During
the lynching incident in Ramallah, the Palestinian policemen did not
protect the safety of the Israelis. The very fact that they were
arrested constitutes an illegal act, and their being taken to Ramallah
for interrogation was an even more serious violation of agreements.”

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