9 June 2010
In the aftermath of Israel’s raid on the flotilla delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza on 31 May, journalists released from custody are providing first-hand accounts of abuse, interrogation and confiscation of equipment by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). One journalist was killed in the deadly attack. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have edited and distributed portions of video footage taken from foreign journalists.
At least 60 journalists from across the globe were on board. All the journalists who were detained have now been deported from Israel, and many are talking about what they endured. Accounts of mistreatment during the raid reveal that journalists were prevented from doing their jobs in the most brutal fashion.
Journalist Muna Shester, working for Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), reported to RSF that one photographer who spoke up and criticised the soldiers was beaten. “I could hear his cries,” said Shester. “Cameramen, press photographers and reporters were mistreated because they were filming or taking photos of the raid.” Journalists were searched, handcuffed and left in the sun for five hours, she said.
Al-Jazeera photographer Issam Za’atar said that as he was filming the raid, an Israeli soldier hit him with a stun gun. Za’atar suffered a broken arm and his camera was damaged. Once in detention, he told CPJ he endured a “long and exhausting interrogation.”
But the worst violence was inflicted on Turkish journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar who was killed by a shot to the head, and Indonesian cameraman Sura Fachrizaz who was shot in the chest and seriously injured, report IFJ and RSF.
Paul McGeough, “Sydney Morning Herald” chief correspondent, said reporters were treated with “absolute disrespect.”
“Our job requires us to get the stories, and to reveal things that are not otherwise being revealed,” McGough said in a phone interview that appears on the paper’s website. “As Israel’s appalling handling of the flotilla demonstrates, you need journalists there to bear witness, to reveal what is happening out there.”
Israeli soldiers confiscated cameras, tapes, satellite phones and mobile phones, said Othman Battiri, a senior producer at Al-Jazeera.
The IDF released edited sections of seized video on its YouTube channel on 2 June. “Israel has confiscated journalistic material and then manipulated it to serve its interests,” said CPJ. The Foreign Press Association in Israel called it a “serious violation of journalistic ethics.” IFJ and its affiliate, the National Federation of Israel Journalists (NFIJ), as well as other IFEX members have urged authorities to return confiscated equipment.
I was filming, and then he [an Israeli solider] ran after me with a stun gun.
He could not catch me. One of his colleagues hit my hand from behind with a stun gun. My camera fell down. He ran to crush the camera with his feet.
I told him, don’t break my camera. If you want the tapes, I will give them to you. I told him these are media equipment. They had no limits.
They used rubber bullets. They used tear gas bombs. It was an unbelievable scene.