Israel issued new regulations today authorizing the military government on the occupied West Bank to bar reporters from areas of unrest unless they have an official escort and to restrict filming of potential trouble spots.
The new regulations also prohibit the use of force by soldiers against reporters or destruction of their equipment but do authorize them to seize film and television videotapes.
The directives, issued by the deputy defense minister, are an attempt to resolve a growing dispute between the occupation authorities and foreign correspondents, which led recently to the arrest of an American reporter and the confiscation of film and notes of others.
The new regulations prohibit reporters from going unescorted into Arab towns that are declared "closed military zones" during disturbances. While the occupation troops will be permitted to confiscate film and television videotapes, they are not to damage or destroy them, as they have in the past.
Journalists will not be allowed to enter "closed" areas to cover Arab demonstrations unless accompanied by an officer of the Army spokesman's office, and even then cameras may not be used until "action takes place." This restriction reflects the Army command's complaint that television and still cameras increase tension and provoke violence.
"This is an effort to liberalize the restrictions that are currently in force. The alternative is to do nothing and to keep you out entirely," Zeev Chafets, director of the government press office, told representatives of the Foreign Press Association today.
The rules provide for "appropriate measures" against violators and for confiscation of film for as long as the violation is being considered by the authorities.
Chafets said the purpose of seizing film is to "assure that there will be no reward for an enterprising newsman who violates the rules and gets his pictures."
The guidelines arose after a crackdown instituted by the military command of the occupied territories after Visnews, a British agency, filmed Israeli troops firing from a rooftop at Palestinian teen-agers during a demonstration. t
The film, which showed the unarmed youths being shot in the legs by soldiers aiming carefully with automatic rifles, was broadcast in the United States, Europe and Israel and generated intense criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank.
During the crackdown, which began Nov. 18, a reporter for United Press International was arrested at Bir Zeit university and detained for seven hours after failing to leave a "closed" area where disturbances had occurred. Criminal charges are pending against the reporter.
Earlier, correspondents for The Washington Post and the Times of London were taken out of Bir Zeit by soldiers, then expelled from a Ramallah hospital while trying to interview Arab students who had been shot in the legs.
A CBS television news crew also was detained and its videotape cassettes seized following a demonstration. CBS reporters said a soldier fired a tear-gas canister at them and let the air out of the tires of their car.
Condemnation of the incidents by the Foreign Press Association led to a meeting of top Israeli Army officials last week and the drafting of the new regulations. The new rules also apply to Israeli journalists, who were not directly involved in the dispute.