Editor-in-chief facing deportation in Israel

New York, January 14, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the immediate release in Israel of Jared Malsin, editor-in-chief of the English-language section of the independent Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency. A deportation hearing has been scheduled for Sunday.

Malsin, a U.S citizen, was returning to Bethlehem, where he lives, from a trip to Prague with his partner, Faith Rowold, when Israeli authorities stopped them at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon, according to a statement issued by Ma’an.

George Hale, an editor at Ma’an, told CPJ that around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the authorities informed both Malsin and Rowold that they had been denied entry for “security reasons.” Their mobile phones were briefly returned to them, only to be confiscated again just after midnight when they were transferred to holding cells.

The Israeli Ministry of Interior issued a deportation order on Wednesday morning against Malsin for “security reasons,” according to his lawyer, Castro Daoud. “Interrogation transcripts show that Malsin was deemed a security risk because of his political beliefs,” Daoud told CPJ. “Security at the airport gathered news stories written by him which they deemed critical of the State of Israel.” He added that security officials also interrogated Malsin about a pro-Palestinian activist group called the International Solidarity Movement. “My client has no affiliation with any activist group; the allegations that he represents a security risk are baseless,” Daoud added.

“We are alarmed by the Israeli government’s efforts to deport Jared Malsin on vague security charges,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem “We call on the Israeli authorities to ensure that our colleague be allowed to carry out his work without further harassment.”

Malsin was slated for expulsion back to Prague at 6:05 a.m. on January 14 but Daoud succeeded in obtaining an injunction against the order. “We successfully appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to overrule the Ministry of Interior’s decision thanks to pressure from the U.S. Embassy,” Daoud told CPJ

Israeli authorities do not recognize Ma’an as a news organization and as such Malsin has been entering Israel and the Occupied Territories on three-month visitor’s visas. Malsin’s colleagues say that he is known to the Israeli military and civilian authorities and had recently been invited to tour a military base on a settlement in the occupied West Bank. Malsin has been denied access to a shower, clean clothes, and reading and writing materials, according to Hale, who was able to briefly talk to Malsin on Thursday morning.