Israel is refusing to renew the visa of a Dutch journalist who has criticized Israeli policy toward the Palestinians in the West Bank, newspaper Haaretz said on Wednesday.
The Israeli government press office says Derk Walters, who works for the NRC knowingly worked in the country without a visa extension or permit.
Last year, Walters criticised Israeli actions in Hebron and tweeted about boycotts as political action against Israel. He has been reporting from Israel since 2014.
In January 2016, Haaretz said, he wrote an article describing the friction between the Palestinians and settlers in Hebron which was criticized by the government’s foreign press chief Ron Paz. In the ensuing dispute, Walters says he only received a press card after the Dutch ambassador intervened.
However, at the end of 2016, the press office rejected Walters’ request to renew his visa and press card stating that the NRC is not a recognised media organization because its editor-in-chief is a board member and there is a conflict of interest between its commercial and editorial sides.
The press office later withdrew that argument after the Dutch Embassy intervened.
However, Walters has not had a press card or visa since then. According to the NRC, the press office has now confirmed that Walters visa will not be renewed.
‘There is no other way but to see the decision as an attempt by Israel to obstruct free and critical news gathering about the country,’ editor in chief Peter Vandermeersch said in an editorial.
Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said he ‘regrets’ the Israeli decision. ‘Journalists have to be able to write what they want,’ he said. ‘The freedom of the press is a greater good. We advocate this all over the world and that includes Israel.’
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