Journalists Ask Israel to Tone Down Security Checks on Arab Media

Statement comes after Al Jazeera cameraman invited to interview President Shimon Peres was told to remove his pants during a security check.

The Foreign Press Association published an open letter on Tuesday demanding that Israeli authorities immediately cease "racist" security procedures for Arab journalists, calling them "an assault on human dignity and a blight upon the state of Israel."

The statement came after a cameraman from the Al Jazeera news team, invited to interview President Shimon Peres on Tuesday, was told to remove his pants during a security check. "The explanations we have received - that such inspections are necessary for Arab journalists - are deeply troubling in a country that bills itself as the Middle East's only democracy," the letter read.

airport - AP - September 9 2011

The letter notes that such incidents have increased, especially over the past year, and while its members "respect Israel's need to maintain tight security," it said such security checks were "a lamentable policy."

Government Press Office director Oren Helman said in response that while security checks are not the responsibility of his office, the phenomenon "harms Israel's image" and the Government Press Office was working to improve the situation. He also extended an apology to the cameraman.

Helman denied that security checks undergone by Arab journalists were different than those undergone by others.