Foreign Journalist Barred From Covering William-Netanyahu Meeting Over Suspicion He Is Muslim

Nebi Qena, AP’s chief TV producer in Israel for the past three years, was detained by security guards at Netanyahu's residency ■ PM's office says 'lessons will be drawn immediately'

Britain's Prince William walks on a red carpet as he arrives to the residence of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, June 26, 2018.
Ammar Awad, Reuters

Security guards at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residency detained Associated Press senior television producer Tuesday due to his Albanian citizenship.

Nebi Qena, who has worked for news agency AP's offices in Israel for the past three years, had pre-registered to cover Prince William's meeting with Netanyahu at the premier's residency. Witnesses to the event told Haaretz that the residency's security guards "asked Qena whether he was Muslim."

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Qena holds a press card given to him by the Israeli Government Press Office, and is known to the authorities as an AP journalist.

The Prime Minister's Office's security department said in response that "obviously, entering the PM residency requires strict security inspections. We are sorry for the distress and the discomfort. The event will be checked and lessons will be drawn immediately." Sources in the department added that it was a "human error."

Qena registered to cover the event ahead of time and gave the office all his personal information, as well as his GPO press card number. Qena had experienced similar incidents during his tenure in Israel, including requests to strip, and therefore showed up at Tuesday's event earlier than required.

He arrived together with photographer Moshe Edri, who entered the residency without any problems. Security guards held Qena's Albanian passport in their hands while they asked "where are you originally from?" They then asked the photographer Edri and AP's Israel offices "whether he [Qena] is Muslim."

Qena eventually did not attend the event held in Prince William's honor.

The Associated Press said in response that it decries this blatant ethnic and religious profiling of an AP journalist and calls on the prime minister’s office to cease such biased practices immediately.”

The Foreign Press Association condemned the incident as a "blatant case of ethnic profiling." FPA added that such incidents are not unusual: "Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long line of offensive and unprecedented behavior by security staff, including inappropriate personal questions and strip searches of journalists trying to cover the news.

Other foreign journalists told Haaretz that recently, there has been an increase of humiliating incidents, especially in Gaza's Erez Crossing and particularly when it comes to journalists of Arab descent.