In what is seen as yet another bid to restrict freedom of the media, the Palestinian Authority government has announced that journalists who wish to report "accurately" on Palestinian life are urged to do so directly with Palestinians.

The Palestinian government's decision is aimed at sending a warning to journalists who dare to report anything that may reflect negatively on its reputation.

It is not clear why representatives of the foreign media have not protested against the new restrictions directed against them.

The Western-funded Palestinian government is actually telling foreign journalists that from now on they should report only on matters that shed a positive light on the Palestinian Authority and its leaders.

By insisting that foreign journalists arrange their visits to the Palestinian territories only through Palestinians, the Palestinian government is proving that its attitude toward freedom of the media is not much different that that of Hamas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Bashar Assad.

Foreign journalists covering the conflict in the Middle East should not allow a situation where anyone would threaten them or tell them what to write. Foreign journalists should be allowed to work freely both inside Israel and in the Palestinian territories; they should also have the right to consult with whomever they wish and visit any place through anyone they feel comfortable working with.

The government's announcement came in response to a plan by the Jerusalem-based Media Central organization to arrange a tour to Jericho for foreign journalists based in Israel.

Upon learning about the tour, Palestinian government officials rushed to warn the organizers that journalists who come to Palestinian territories through "Israeli organizations dedicated to propaganda in support of the Occupation" are not welcome.

"All journalists are welcome at any time to approach the Palestinian Government Media Center directly, as we build our capacity as an institution of government, rather than feel it necessary to go through an organization promoting the Occupation and denying the reality," the Palestinian government explained.

In light of the warning, Media Central was forced to cancel the tour to Jericho. Palestinian officials who were supposed to meet with the visiting journalists backtracked, apparently at the request of the Palestinian government.

The decision, according to informed Palestinian sources, came in the aftermath of a news story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times and which obviously embarrassed the Palestinian government.

The story, which was related to a ceremony marking 10,000 years for Jericho's birthday, said that many Palestinians and foreign dignitaries who were invited to the party did not show up.

Obviously, the Los Angeles Times correspondent had failed to "coordinate" his visit to Jericho with the Palestinian government spokesman's office.

Otherwise, he would have avoided mentioning embarrassing facts about the poor planning and attendance, as the Associated Press and other media outlets did.

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