An Albanian-born journalist who has worked for three years in Israel was denied access to a meeting between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Kingdom’s Prince William, purportedly because the man is Muslim.
Nebi Qena, The Associated Press’s chief TV producer in Israel, was detained by security guards at Netanyahu’s personal residence before an event featuring the prime minister and the Duke of Cambridge.
According to Moshe Edri, who was there as Qena’s cameraman, guards halted Qena’s entry due to his heritage, asking about where he was from and whether he was a Muslim.
Qena has dealt with being restricted by Israel in the past, even having to strip off some of his clothing to prove he wasn’t a security risk. Knowing that he sometimes faced such harassment, he arrived two-and-a-half hours early to the event and pre-registered as an attendee well before it was set to happen.
Still, even after presenting his official press card from the Israeli Government Press Office, and even though he is a well-known reporter who has been in Israel for the past three years, Qena was denied entry to the event. Later, the prime minister’s Security Department issued a statement, blaming “human error” on Qena’s restrictions.
“[O]bviously, entering the PM residency requires strict security inspections,” the department said in a statement. “We are sorry for the distress and the discomfort. The event will be checked and lessons will be drawn immediately.”
The Foreign Press Association condemned the actions taken against Qena, writing in its own statement that the incident was a “blatant case of ethnic profiling.”
Israeli security stopped an accredited AP journalist from covering Prince William's visit with Netanyahu. They tried to find out if he was Muslim or not.@FPAIsPal calls on prime minister's office to apologise and asks Prince William's office to speak out. pic.twitter.com/hGTIDwBdp2— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) June 26, 2018
“Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long line of offensive and unprecedented behavior by security staff, including inappropriate personal questions and strip searches of journalists trying to cover the news,” the FPA said.
Kensington Palace did not comment on the incident.
A free press is necessary for democracy to endure in all nations dedicated to the ideals of freedom and equality. Access to information should not be restricted to journalists on the basis of their heritage or religious beliefs.
Even if this was a mix-up, as Netanyahu’s security detail claimed it was, it doesn’t justify their behavior. Qena is a venerated journalist, but the restrictions to the press would have been equally severe had the individual been a newcomer.
Ensuring security is necessary, but using discrimination and bigotry as a means to keep certain reporters out of an event should never been seen as an acceptable practice.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters