August 17, 2002 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Reuters cameraman expelled after being refused

Reporters Without Borders today protested against the expulsion of Ahmed Bahaddou, a cameraman with the British news agency Reuters, who was put on a flight to Jordan on 15 August after having been refused entry and detained overnight at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport. Bahaddou's expulsion was "new evidence of the discriminatory policies pursued by the Israeli authorities towards Arab journalists", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. Two other Arab journalists have been expelled since the Israeli army began its incursion into Palestinian territories last March. "We also call on Danny Seaman, the head of the Israeli government's press office, to comply promptly with the undertakings he gave to Tim Heritage, the head of the Reuters bureau in Jerusalem", Ménard added. Seaman reportedly said Bahaddou would be able to return to work in Israel on condition that he did not cover the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. A Belgian national, Bahaddou was held for 20 hours in a cell at Ben-Gurion airport after being refused entry on 14 August. ''I feel humiliated... I don't feel like I'm in a democratic country,'' he told Reuters by telephone from the airport. Seaman said on 14 August that the Interior Ministry had denied Bahaddou entry under pressure from trade unions that oppose foreign cameramen working in Israel. "Bahaddou attempted to enter Israel without the proper visa," Seaman said. Bahaddou had often covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since November 2001, until now without any problem. Like most foreign journalists, he would enter Israel on a three-month tourist visa and would subsequently obtain the accreditation authorizing him to work. However, in early July, the Israeli authorities had asked him to get a work permit. The Israeli cameramen's union recently protested to the interior ministry about the large number of foreign cameramen employed by the international news media in Israeli, to the detriment of Israeli cameramen. At the same time, the international press agencies are obliged to use foreign cameramen to cover the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is partly because Israeli journalists cannot go into these areas for security reasons. It is also because many Palestinian journalists, lacking press cards, cannot move freely between the different territories. Since the start of the year, the Israeli press office has refused to renew the accreditation of many Palestinian journalists. Some now only have an accreditation valid for several months, as opposed to the two-year accreditation that used to be issued. Others only have a new document describing them as "media assistants". Other Arab journalists have been expelled in recent months. On 3 June 2002, Mashhour Abou Eid, a correspondent for the Jordanian government news agency Petra, was escorted back to the border between Israel and Jordan. A US national, Jassem al-Azzawi of Abu Dhabi TV, was expelled on 6 April after his accreditation was withdrawn. Meanwhile, Yousri El Jamal, a Reuters sound man, is still held by the Israeli authorities following his arrest on 30 April. A military court reject demands for his immediate release on 18 June, and on 11 July, his detention was extended for three months.