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Peace and love between all men – except journalists and security, of course

May 15, 2009

pope-blessing

Pope Benedict has left the Holy Land bequeathing a message of peace, tolerance and love between all religions and peoples.

We hope that message also filters through to the eternally fractious relationship between journalists and security men – which gets even more strained when a high-profile visitor like the Pope is in town.

Months of elaborate preparation went in to ensuring the Pope’s visit was safe and successful and also to ensure journalists got controlled access to major events to tell the stories their readers and viewers want to see.

This planning process is hostage, however, to a simple dichotomy which pits journalists against bureaucrats and security officials.

In the eyes of the security men, journalists are bothersome, quarrelsome and disobedient and need to be coralled (even though that process is often like ‘herding cats’). Notions of a free press and unlimited access take a back seat to security concerns.

In the eyes of the journalists, security men are unthinking automatons with no common sense or an appreciation of the (self-)importance of journalists – and they need to be challenged and confronted whenever possible. The elaborate coverage restrictions, security sweeps, shuttle buses and byzantine pool regulations are, of course, both ridiculous and the main obstacle between the journalist and his/her exclusive, prize-winning story.

Perhaps its not unusual then that tempers occasionally overheat.

In the video below you will see what happens when very clear ‘pool’ rules are breached by a local photographer – who runs from a pre-ordained position towards the Pope and enters the inner core of accredited Vatican journalists who travel with Benedict wherever he goes.

The photographer in question had a different accreditation – only allowing limited access to the Pope’s itinerary.

To give you an idea of how seriously these breaches of protocol are taken – the gentleman ‘herding the cats’ in this case is the Director of the Government Press Office which oversees many aspects of the work of foreign journalists in Israel.

In this next video you will see what happens when people spend too much time waiting around in the sun wearing suit jackets and ties and getting…well, a little cranky.

The cameraman here was doing exactly what he was supposed to do on behalf of the Host Broadcaster pool which has been providing the bulk of the live pictures of the Pope’s visit to Israel. A TV Pool like this is set up to film on behalf of everyone so as to avoid a crush of journalists attending every event and making it even more unmanageable. Maybe someone should have explained that part a bit better to the security guy.

If things can get a little heated when diplomatic protocol and stringent preparations are in place, it can get even uglier when unofficial visitors attract even more attention than the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics….

Cue Leonardo diCaprio visiting Jerusalem two years ago with his Israeli girlfriend Bar Refaeli and a private security escort to keep the couple out of harm’s way….


Two of diCaprio’s security guards were arrested for their part in the scuffle.

Perhaps its only fitting to leave the last word to the Pope himself who said, as he left the Holy Land for Rome: “It remains only for me to express my heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed in so many ways to my visit. To the government, the organisers, the volunteers, the media…”

(PHOTO CREDIT: Pope Benedict during the Nazareth mass REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

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