CPJ denounces Israel’s use of footage seized in flotilla raid

New York, June 3, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces Israel’s editing and distribution of footage confiscated from foreign journalists aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla that was raided on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman’s office released edited portions of confiscated video on its YouTube channel, where the footage was labeled as “captured.” The Foreign Press Association in Israel, which represents hundreds of foreign correspondents in Israel, called the use a “clear violation of journalistic ethics and unacceptable” and warned news outlets to “treat the material with appropriate caution.”

CPJ called on the Israeli government to immediately return all equipment, notes, and footage confiscated from journalists. “Israel has confiscated journalistic material and then manipulated it to serve its interests,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “It must cease this practice without delay, and return all property seized from journalists who were covering this legitimate news event.”

Journalists have complained of mistreatment during the raid. Al-Jazeera cameraman Issam Zaatar told the Qatar-based channel that as he was filming the raid an Israeli soldier struck him with a stun gun. He said he suffered a broken arm and his camera was damaged during the altercation.

Gadijah Davids, a South African radio journalist, also had her equipment confiscated, according to her station, Radio 786. Rushni Ali, the station manager, told CPJ that Davids is in Turkey and will be leaving for South Africa on Friday. The South African government provided emergency travel documents for Davids because she “had nothing with her: no clothes, no travel document, no equipment” Ali told CPJ.

Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald chief correspondent, told his newspaper that the raid was “very ugly.” He accused Israel of “absolute disrespect” with regard to the way that he and other reporters were treated. “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 Web site. “As Israel’s appalling handling of the flotilla demonstrates, you need journalists there to bear witness, to reveal what is happening out there.”

CPJ’s Abdel Dayem said: “The treatment meted out to our colleagues is unacceptable. It is Israel’s responsibility to conduct its operations in ways that also allow journalists to report the news.”

Editor’s note: The original text of this alert has been modified in the second paragraph to clarify the Foreign Press Association’s position.