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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And Mike Shuster is just one of many reporters who cannot get access to Gaza. That's because Israeli authorities won't let them in, as NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: This is a real-world test about how to do journalism in real time. Israeli missiles struck schools in Gaza over the past few days, reportedly killing scores of refuges seeking shelter. The video is compelling, as in this from the BBC.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEN SHOUTING AND SIRENS)

FOLKENFLIK: But how do you know what really happened?

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)

FOLKENFLIK: Morbid as it sounds, you test the allegations by sending reporters to morgues to view the bodies, and to hospitals to interview survivors. But that's a lot harder to do when your reporters aren't allowed on the scene. Roy Gutman is the foreign editor for the McClatchy newspaper chain.

BLOCK: It's very difficult to be able to do more than pretend that we're telling the real story of the events there.

FOLKENFLIK: News organizations such as McClatchy and NPR are making do by relying on freelance Palestinian journalists inside Gaza. Israel has a strong tradition of a free press but starting in November, authorities began cutting off the ability of journalists to enter Gaza through the Erez passageway at the north, citing safety concerns.

There was steady rocket and mortar fire from Gaza aimed at Israel civilian targets at and near the border. As Roy Gutman says, some of those attacks may well have been launched from sites near schools or hospitals as a way of drawing Israeli bombs.

BLOCK: I think we're missing a lot of not just the human story, but the real story of what is going on in Gaza.

FOLKENFLIK: The Foreign Press Association sued the Israeli military. Last week, it won a limited ruling from the country's Supreme Court requiring that a small pool of international reporters be allowed into Gaza. NPR News is part of the press association and it, too, has protested the restrictions. But despite the legal win, groups of journalists have been turned away every day. Jonathan Peled is the chief press aide at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and he says the invasion over the weekend undermined the Supreme Court ruling.

BLOCK: That was before the ground operation began. And obviously, the situation at the moment is such that the passages are in harm's way. And therefore, as I said, nobody is entering Gaza, including journalists.

FOLKENFLIK: Peled notes that Egypt is not allowing journalists to enter Gaza from the territory's southern border, either.

BLOCK: So it is very clear at the moment that this is a very precarious situation, and the minute the conditions in the passages are such that people can enter and exit, journalists obviously will be the first to enjoy that safety.

FOLKENFLIK: But that doesn't quite seem to be the case. Israel has, in fact, allowed humanitarian aid and United Nations officials into Gaza as recently as during a several hours cease-fire earlier today, but again, no journalists. Among those kept out are reporters who work for Joe Floto, the deputy editor for the BBC's Middle East bureaus.

BLOCK: In my experience of covering conflict and violence in Gaza, which I've done since 2001, there has never been a period like this in which international journalists were prevented from entering and from covering events inside Gaza, even during major military operations by the Israeli military.

FOLKENFLIK: Israeli officials have long complained that Palestinian activists and terrorist groups manipulate foreign journalists by claiming Israeli atrocities. But journalists, such as the BBC's Floto, argue they can only piece together the truth by reporting it for themselves.

BLOCK: It's the nature of broadcast news that we want our correspondents to report what they see. That is the essence of broadcast journalism, and we're incapable of doing that.

FOLKENFLIK: Floto, Gutman and other news editors acknowledged the very real danger of reporting from Gaza, both from the military crossfire and the threat of kidnapping there. But journalists say they should have the right to assess that danger, and everything else in Gaza, for themselves and for the public. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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