Sunday, June 26, 2011

Israel Warns Media Against Travelling With Gaza Aid Flotilla

Israel warns media against travelling with Gaza flotilla

MARK WEISS in Jerusalem
Mon, Jun 27, 2011

ISRAEL SAYS foreign journalists accompanying the Gaza-bound flotilla, which is due to set sail this week, will be banned from entering Israel for 10 years.

Israel’s government press office warned editors that the Israel defence forces had been ordered to stop the maritime convoy reaching Gaza, and media representatives travelling with the flotilla would have their equipment impounded and face a 10-year travel ban.

The Foreign Press Association condemned the decision, saying journalists covering a legitimate news event should be allowed to do their jobs without threats and intimidation. The association issued a statement yesterday saying the move “sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press”.

Israel believes about 10 ships will participate in the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid and about 500 activists, including Irish citizens. The flotilla is due to set sail from Greece tomorrow but the Greek authorities have refused permission for a number of the vessels, including American ship Audacity of Hope, to set sail.

Organisers received a significant blow when the biggest ship in the flotilla, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, pulled out earlier this month. Nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed in May of last year when Israeli commandos stormed the Gaza-bound vessel.

The Israeli forces are on high alert and have undergone months of training to stop the flotilla. Israel has promised that all humanitarian aid will be allowed to enter Gaza via land crossings.

Meanwhile, Dublin Labour councillor Richard Humphreys has appealed to the passengers and crew of the MV Saoirse , set to take part in the flotilla, to heed the warnings of the UN and President Barack Obama, and to stay at home.

“Ultra left politicians such as Dún Laoghaire Rathdown county councillor Cllr Hugh Lewis, and Paul Murphy MEP, would be fulfilling their duties better if they stayed at home and attended to their constituents, rather than heading off for this ill-advised Mediterranean cruise,” Mr Humphreys said.

“This is not just my opinion,” he added. “This flotilla is in defiance of the call by the secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, that such flotillas should be discouraged, and blocked by member states, as they may only provide a focus for violence.

“President Obama’s administration, and Hillary Clinton in particular, has made the same appeal to call off this flotilla.

“I fully support the call by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that all sides must avoid the completely unjustified violence associated with the last flotilla,” Mr Humphreys said.

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