TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ The Israeli army said today that it had restricted news media access to southern Lebanon to protect correspondents and its soldiers in the occupied territory.

The Israeli army issued its reaction today to a protest made Thursday by the board of the 220-member Foreign Press Association. The newsmen objected to the Israeli policy following the detention and expulsion of 14 Beirut-based journalists in the previous two days.

The army does not allow journalists to travel in southern Lebanon without Israeli liaison officers and soldiers as escorts. It also does not allow news coverage of current army operations.

In practice, this means Beirut-based correspondents have very limited access to areas under Israeli control, because they have no means of coordinating their coverage with the Israeli army and arranging for Israeli escorts.

''Allowing foreign and local correspondents into dangerous areas entails risk for the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers who escort the correspondents. The IDF considers itself responsible for events in the area and therefore cannot permit the uncontrolled movement of persons,'' the statement said.

The association also protested a lack of access to southern Lebanon for Israel-based correspondents. ''We view this as a serious encroachment on press freedom,'' the statement said.

However, the Israeli army statement said the army: ''Will continue to be at the disposal of correspondents and providing fast, reliable information about events in the field (and the army) continues to regard itself as providing good services to the representatives of the world press in Israel, in line with the tradition to date.''