Press Groups Protest Handling of Journalists

At least 60 journalists from several countries who were on the Gaza flotilla will be filing their stories over the next few days. Police arrested the journalists together with the other passengers, some of whom were released yesterday, with the rest expected to be released today.

Preliminary reports indicate that the Israeli authorities confiscated equipment from at least some of the reporters and did not return it to them. Two leading advocacy groups for freedom of the press, the Vienna-based International Press Institute and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders have criticized Israel's treatment of the journalists.

The International Press Institute said photographic equipment and material were confiscated from two Pakistani television reporters who have been released. Equipment belonging to a South African radio reporter was also taken, and it is unclear whether it has been returned. According to the International Press Institute, The Hindu quoted Pakistani journalist Talat Hussein as saying he had seen four people shot in the forehead. IPI has no direct contact with Hussein and did not provide further details.

The Australian reporter Kate Geraghty, who met with representatives of the Australian consulate during her detention, told them, according to information obtained by IPI, that when the naval commandos took over the ship she was injured in the arm by a weapon she called a stun rifle (apparently the paint-ball rifles that looked to passengers like live-fire weapons ) and reported a bruise, burn and nausea. Another Australian journalist on the flotilla, Paul McGough, wrote a book more than a year ago about the failed assassination attempt on Khalad Meshal.

His editor, and Geraghty's editor at the Sidney Morning Herald told IPI that he was told that those who agreed to sign a statement could leave Wednesday, and those who refused would be deported today.

IPI Director David Dadge said: ..." By its actions the Israeli government is essentially saying that it is acceptable to jam the communications of journalists, confiscate their equipment and footage, and arrest and hold journalists against their will. These actions are wholly unacceptable from a country that claims to respect freedom of the press. Israel must understand that, while it continues to hold journalists and their footage, it is undermining its own claims about this incident and lending credence to alternative perceptions."