The chief of communications and public information for the United Nations on Thursday called on Israel to ensure immediate access for international media into Gaza, stressing the need for "full and independent" coverage of events unfolding in the territory which has been the target of an Israeli offensive launched nearly two weeks ago. "Access to objective and factual information is of vital importance at all times, and plays a particularly important role in emergency situations," Kiyo Akasaka, UN under-secretary-general for communications and public information, writes in a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev. Citing reports, including from the Foreign Press Association of Israel, that international media are not being allowed access to Gaza, Akasaka reminds the Israeli government of the right to information enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also recalls Security Council resolution 1738, in which the 15-member body urged all parties involved in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists. Member states have expressed a keen interest in what is taking place in Gaza, he said, adding that it is "of great importance to all concerned that international reporting be allowed to take place so that accurate information about the situation can inform global responses." A chorus of UN officials, including UN Secretary-general Ban Ki- moon, have repeatedly called for an immediate halt to the fighting in Gaza and stressed the need to ensure humanitarian access to assist the 1.5 million civilians struggling amid rapidly deteriorating conditions.