Foreign Press Association slams reporters’ arrests

The Foreign Press Association protests “in the strongest possible terms the detention today by Israeli border police of William Booth, the Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, and Sufian Taha, the paper’s West Bank correspondent.”

In a harsh statement, the organization decries the “absurd” accusation against the two reporters, and offers a different account on how the incident unfolded.

“Shortly after noon, the two were interviewing Palestinian and Jewish residents of Jerusalem at Damascus Gate, along with Washington Post correspondent Ruth Eglash. When Booth and Taha tried to interview some high-school students on the steps opposite the gate, police waved them away. They then retreated to interview the teenagers under a tree. Shortly after, border police waved the two journalists over and asked them for their IDs. They presented their Government Press Office cards as identification, but these were waved away and they were asked for official identity documents,” it says.

“Although the journalists made it very clear that they were reporting a story for the Washington Post, police took them to a nearby police station, where they were held for about 40 minutes, then released. When they asked police why they had been held, police said they had suspected the journalists of ‘inciting’ Palestinians.

“The FPA protests this absurd accusation against a respected international news outlet, as well as the detention, however brief, of an accredited foreign journalist and his Palestinian colleague.

“We note that it comes in the context of heavy-handed tactics – including violent attacks – deployed in recent months by border police against foreign journalists and their Palestinian co-workers covering the unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We do not think it is coincidental that a baseless accusation of ‘incitement’ was made at a time when blanket accusations of bias are being leveled against the foreign press by Israeli officials and commentators. We furthermore urge Israeli police and other authorities to recognize their own government-issued GPO cards and allow those holding them to work without hindrance.”

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