January 21, 2010
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A week after he was detained and then questioned over news stories criticizing Israel, a top Ma’an journalist was deported on Wednesday.
Jared Malsin, chief English editor at the Bethlehem-based news network, had been fighting to attend a hearing on a deportation order issued last Tuesday in Tel Aviv after a vacation in the Czech Republic.
Malsin, an American citizen, says he was pressured by Interior Ministry staff into dropping a legal challenge and was subsequently placed onto a El Al flight to New York early Wednesday. “I had no idea I was waving anything, no clue,” he said, telling Ma’an that Israeli officials provided him a document to withdraw his case without an attorney present, and offered a misleading explanation over what he was signing.
Malsin said he wrote a note indicating that he was leaving the facility “without personal coercion.” “But none of this was my decision,” he emphasized in a phone interview minutes after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York early Thursday morning, rejecting reports that he left Israel voluntarily. “There’s no such thing as a voluntary deportation. I was deported, period.”
Malsin said he was under the impression that the “agreement” allowed him to leave the airport while his case continued. Indeed, his attorney, Castro Daoud, said he had recently informed Malsin that he would seek such a ruling from District Court Judge Kobi Vardi. On Tuesday, Judge Vardi ordered a hearing to consider the decision to deport the journalist.
Explanations from official Israeli government representatives were contradictory. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad told The Associated Press that Malsin raised security suspicions during an investigation upon his arrival. The same day, however, she was also quoted by Reuters as denying Malsin was refused a visa for political or security reasons.
Allegations referenced in court documents were that Malsin had been uncooperative and had violated his visa status during an eight-hour interrogation, the pretext for which was never clear, that ultimately resulted in the deportation of his girlfriend, Faith Rowold.
Among the Interior Ministry’s complaints, according to documents obtained by Ma’an and others, were that Malsin had authored articles “inside the [Palestinian] territories,” including some “criticizing the State of Israel.”
International press association have strongly backed the journalist.
“We condemn this intolerable violation of press freedom,” said Aidan White, the head of the International Federation of Journalists, the largest union of media professionals worldwide. “The ban of entry in this case appears to be as a reprisal measure for the journalist’s independent reporting and that is unacceptable.”
“This kind of interference has no place in a democracy,” he added.