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Israel Suspends Newsweek Correspondent’s Credentials Over Photo

February 2, 1991

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel on Friday suspended the press credentials of Newsweek’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Theodore Stanger, for an alleged censorship violation, but the magazine said it would appeal the ruling.

Newsweek said the action was over publication of a photograph the magazine had been told was cleared by censors. The photo, which appears in a two-page spread in Newsweek’s Feb. 4 issue, shows the launch of a Patriot missile from Tel Aviv to intercept an Iraq Scud missile.

Newsweek editor-in-chief Richard M. Smith in New York said the magazine received assurances the photo supplied by the Sygma picture agency was approved.

″We asked for - and received - specific assurances that the photograph had been cleared by Israeli military censors. Without such specific assurances, Newsweek, of course, would not have published the picture,″ Smith said.

In a statement, Sygma said the picture taken during a missile alert Jan. 22 was cleared by Israeli censors early Jan. 23 and shipped to Paris for distribution.

The statement said ″more dramatic pictures showing Patriot missiles intercepting Scuds over Tel Aviv that were shot by Sygma photographers″ were not cleared by censors. Sygma said those photos remain in the possession of photographers in Israel.

A Newsweek spokeswoman said the magazine would keep Stanger in the country and appeal to the government to lift the suspension.

Yossi Olmert, director of the Israeli Government Press Office, said the suspension of Stanger’s government-issued press card was the first such action since Israel imposed stricter censorship with the start of the Gulf War.

″The reason is very simple - a very severe censorship violation,″ Olmert said. ″Such a violation cannot be tolerated.″

Olmert said the suspension would remain in effect ″until further notice.″ He declined to give details of the violation.

The United States has supplied six Patriot batteries to Israel to intercept the Scud missiles that have been fired toward the Jewish state from western Iraq eight times since Jan. 18.

Israeli censors have deleted from news stories the specific locations where Scuds have landed and where Patriot batteries are located, saying the information could help Iraq aim its missiles.

Stanger cannot attend government briefings without accreditation, said Newsweek spokeswoman Karen Wheeler. She said Stanger was not involved in the decision to publish the photograph.

Asked if the government thought Stanger was directly responsible for the violation, Olmert replied that he was responsible as Newsweek’s representative here. Olmert said the censors summoned Stanger to answer for the violation and found his explanation inadequate.

Since the Gulf War started, Israel has briefly blocked broadcasts by American networks NBC and CNN, accusing them of censorship violations. It allowed both networks to resume operations within a few hours.

During the past three years of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the government has suspended the credentials of at least three correspondents. Each time the press cards were returned within weeks.

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