The International Federation of Journalists today accused Israel’s legal process of creating a “camouflage of democracy” after a British journalist was forced to quit the country after spending three weeks under airport detention in Tel Aviv.
The IFJ says that legal rulings in the case of Ewa Jasiewicz, a writer for a left-wing journal in the UK, were “inconsistent and dangerous.” Conflicting court judgments finally led yesterday to a conclusion from the Israeli Supreme Court that would allow Ms. Jasiewicz to enter Israel, but not to visit the Palestinian territories, the original purpose of her visit. In the circumstances she decided to pack her bags and go home.
“This case has been a roller-coaster journey through the Israeli legal system demonstrating just how much legal camouflage surrounds Israeli democracy,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This smacks of political discrimination not justice. We have witnessed unfair discrimination with judges reaching a verdict on the professional capacity of a journalist even before she had the opportunity to ask a single question or write a single word.”
From 29 August to 1 September, the Israeli Interior Ministry had banned Ewa Jasiewicz from contact with the media.
“She was detained for 22 days and gagged for four,” said White. “This is discrimination, censorship and political interference which cast a shadow over the right of all journalists to report and move freely in the region”.
The Supreme Court’s final position to prevent the journalist from proceeding past the green line before the release of the appeal appeared to be based upon information provided by Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service. Defence lawyers were denied access to this information, which appears to contradict decisions of two Tel Aviv District Court judges who said Jasiewicz did not pose a threat to national security.
Jasiewicz, a correspondent for the British left-wing magazine Red Pepper was detained at Ben Gurion International airport on 11 August following initial “national security concerns” put forward by the Israeli authorities. She appealed against the decision and on 19 August was told that she could enter Israel without advancing beyond the green line. The Israeli state appealed against this decision to free her and she remained in detention.
The case went back to the District Court, which in a second decision on 26 August, Judge Drora Pilpel said Ms Jasiewicz did not pose a direct threat to Israeli security but Palestinians could manipulate her "naiveté" and she was therefore to be deported. Her lawyers decided to challenge this and the matter went back to the Supreme Court.
Jasiewicz, a member of the IFJ British affiliate the National Union of Journalists of Great Britain and Ireland, was hoping to report on living conditions in the Palestinian territories. The authorities said she was a political activist whose reporting would not be objective. The IFJ local affiliate, the National Federation of Israeli Journalists wrote joint letters to the Supreme Court calling for the release of Jasiewicz.
“Censorship is no answer to the current crisis,” said White. “We support our affiliates in Israel and Britain for taking up this case – it could have set a dangerous precedent with implications for all foreign journalists attempting to cover the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries