Reporters Without Borders condemns the Israeli government’s attempts to intimidate journalists who plan to travel with a flotilla of ships that will set sail in the next few days in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In a message sent to journalists yesterday, Israeli Government Press Office director Oren Helman said media personnel sailing with the flotilla would be deliberately violating Israeli law and could be denied entry to Israel for 10 years. Their equipment could also be impounded and they might be subject to “additional sanctions,” he added.
“The threats made by the Israeli authorities are unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They deny the rights to impart and receive news and information, rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Israeli constitution.
“Without media coverage, the public is likely to be misinformed about the attempted delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Journalists must be allowed to do their work without being threatened or intimidated. This announcement violates the fundamental principles which Israel claims to espouse.”
Reporters Without Borders has been told that dozens of foreign journalists plan to be aboard the flotilla, as well as an Israeli journalist working for the Tel Aviv-based daily Haaretz. In response to an outcry about yesterday’s announcement, the Israeli prime minister today said the government was reviewing its position.
A similar “Freedom Flotilla” tried in May 2010 to break the blockade that Israeli has maintained on the Gaza population ever since Hamas seized power in 2006. A total of 19 passengers were killed and 36 others were wounded when the Israeli military intercepted the flotilla at sea. The Israeli authorities imposed a temporary blackout on information about the dead and injured and their transfer to hospitals in Israel.
More than 60 journalists travelling with 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 (http://en.rsf.org/israel-journalists-on-intercepted-14-06-2010,37735.html).