Israel Security Stops Journalist from Covering Prince William Visit, Asks If He's Muslim

A journalist for the Associated Press (AP) was barred Tuesday from covering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with British Prince William, after security forces questioned whether he was a "Muslim."

According to the Times of Israel, Nebi Qena—who works as the AP's chief television producer in Israel and the Palestinian territories—was held at the entrance of Netanyahu's residence, while other journalists were allowed to enter.

"The Associated Press decries this blatant ethnic and religious profiling of an AP journalist and calls on the prime minister's office to cease such biased practices immediately," said Lauren Easton, the AP's director of media relations, the Israeli paper reported.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) criticized the Israeli agents' actions as a "blatant case of ethnic profiling," in an official statement.

"The producer, an Albanian national and accredited international journalist based in Israel for three years, was repeatedly asked by security guards about his 'extraction' [place of family origins], while other AP staffers were asked about his religion and whether he was a 'Muslim'," the FPA explained in the statement. The association went on to condemn the "disgraceful and indefensible behavior by the prime minister's security staff in the strongest terms."

Demanding that Netanyahu's office apologize for the incident, the FPA also called on Prince William's office to "speak out" against the "offensive behavior." According to the association, this is just the "latest in a long line" of similar behavior from Israeli security officers. Journalists have routinely been asked offensive questions and even strip-searched while trying to cover the news, according to the statement.

Israeli news site Ynet News reported that the prime minister's office did later apologize for the security officers' actions, citing "human error."

According to Freedom House, a U.S. government-funded organization, "media outlets are subject to military censorship and gag orders, and journalists often face travel restrictions" in Israel. "Political interference is also a growing concern," according to the organization's report on the Mediterranean country.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Israel 87th out of the 180 countries on its 2018 World Press Freedom Index. "The Israel Defense Forces often violate the rights of Palestinian and foreign journalists," the organization said on its website.

An AP photographer, Majdi Mohammed, was shot and wounded in May by an Israeli settler who opened fire on Palestinian protesters. Following the assault, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Israeli authorities to apprehend and try the man responsible.

An Israeli journalist also said he had a "humiliating" interaction with security at Netanyahu's office back in January. Yanir Cozin, the diplomatic correspondent for Maariv, a Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper, said he was flagged for extra security checks and strip searched. The journalist alleged that the agents' actions were in response to criticism he has made against the prime minister's staff.

Israel Security Stops Journalist from Covering Prince William Visit, Asks If He's Muslim | World