Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of Hassan Ghani, a British journalist employed by the Iranian government’s English-language TV station Press TV, who was arrested along with four other journalists and 22 other people aboard two Gaza-bound vessels intercepted by the Israeli navy on 4 November.
Ghani was released and deported on 11 November after being held for week, but his equipment was not returned to him. Reporters Without Borders had been worried about him as he was held longer than the other journalists.
Reporters Without Borders again urges the Israeli authorities to return all the equipment that was confiscated from the journalists, and to stop arresting media personnel who sail with Gaza-bound humanitarian flotillas in their capacity as reporters.
Press TV journalist still held
Reporters Without Borders welcomes Jihan Hafiz’s release on 8 November from the Givon detention centre although her equipment was not returned to her.
The press freedom organization reiterates its call for the return of all the equipment and material confiscated from journalists aboard the flotilla, and for the immediate release of British journalist Hassan Ghani of Iran’s Press TV, who is still being held.
Israeli navy arrests five journalists aboard solidarity flotilla, two still held
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the arrest of five journalists who were aboard two Gaza-bound solidarity vessels that the Israeli navy intercepted on 4 November to prevent them from breaking Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Two of the journalists are still held. The blockade has been in force ever since Hamas took power in Gaza.
Chartered in Turkey and flying Irish and Canadian flags, the two vessels were carrying medical supplies destined for Gaza. The Israeli navy boarded them when they were 45 nautical miles from the Gaza Strip’s coast, arrested all 27 persons aboard, including the five journalists, and took them to Givon detention centre.
The five journalists were Lina Attalah of the English-language version of the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, Casey Kauffmann of Al-Jazeera English, Ayman Al-Zubair of Al-Jazeera, Jihan Hafiz of New-York-based Democracy Now! and Hassan Ghani of Press TV, the Iranian government’s English-language TV news station.
Three of the journalists, Attalah, Kauffmann and Al-Zubair, were deported from Israel the next day. None of Attalah’s equipment, which had been taken by the Israeli navy, was returned to her. Hafiz, who is American, and Ghani, who is British, are still being held.
The Israeli authorities asked the journalists to sign a document in Hebrew recognizing that they had entered Israel illegally and were banned from returning for the next 10 years. Reporters Without Borders has learned that military officials pressured the journalists to sign the document.
Hafiz reportedly refused to sign, saying she needed an Arabic or English translation, which was not provided.
Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned about the fate of Ghani of Iran’s Press TV. According to the other journalists, he was immediately separated from the other detainees and no information is available about his current location and status. He was previously arrested in May 2010 while covering an earlier attempt by a solidarity flotilla to reach Gaza.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the Israeli authorities to release Hafiz and Ghani at once and to return all the equipment confiscated from the five journalists, who were just covering a humanitarian operation in their capacity as reporters.
The Israeli authorities managed to prevent a solidarity flotilla, which was to have had journalists aboard, from embarking last August. The head of the Israeli government press office said on 26 June that any journalist travelling on Gaza-bound vessels would be treated as having deliberately violated Israeli law and could be denied entry to Israel for 10 years. This announcement caused such an outcry that the Israeli prime minister said that it would be reviewed the next day.
The Israeli military’s use of force to intercept a large Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla” in May 2010 resulted in 9 passengers being killed and 36 others wounded. The Israeli authorities imposed a temporary blackout on information about the victims and their transfer to hospitals in Israel. More than 60 journalists aboard the flotilla were arrested, taken back to Israel and then deported. Their equipment was confiscated and many of them are still waiting for it to be returned.
Two Al-Jazeera journalists aboard the “Spirit of Humanity”, a vessel chartered by the Free Gaza human rights group to carry humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in June 2009, were arrested when it was intercepted by the Israeli navy. They were deported from Israel a few days later.