13 January 2010
For Immediate Release:
The English Desk at Ma’an News Agency, the largest independent news network in the Palestinian territories, is deeply concerned that its chief editor, Jared Malsin, an American citizen [and graduate of Yale University], was detained on Tuesday afternoon upon arriving at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. He is slated for imminent deportation.
In what can only be explained as a retaliatory measure for Malsin’s reporting on Palestine, his long-term girlfriend, Faith Rowold, a two-year, registered volunteer with the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, was also seized and placed in a holding cell pending deportation. Israeli security agents have prevented the couple from making calls, and lied to concerned American consular staff, denying that the two were even being held.
While the US Embassy is protesting both incidents, and is in constant contact with our staff on the ground, diplomatic officials say that there is little they can do when Israel cites “security reasons” for the denial of entry. Meanwhile, Israeli security officials have quietly expressed concern to Ma’an over this latest abuse of power by authorities at the Interior Ministry, skeptical that the professional journalist they know could be deemed a threat.
For its part, Israel has yet to specify any allegations against Malsin, who indicated – just before his phone was seized by airport guards – that during his hours of interrogation, security agents inexplicably questioned him over his supposed ties to international peace activists, with whom he has no relationship.
Ma’an scrupulously maintains its editorial independence and aims to promote access to information, freedom of expression, press freedom, and media pluralism in Palestine. It has no other agenda. Israel’s arbitrary detention of the head of its English Desk is an affront to professional journalists not only in Palestine, but also to journalists in Israel and abroad, who rely on Ma’an for its accuracy, impartiality, and independence… Full report
Order of Events
Jared’s phone was confiscated by El Al security officials when he boarded a flight in the Czech Republic on 12 January 2010. He was denied the opportunity to make any calls to his consulate, his family or a lawyer between 11am (upon boarding) and 11pm (when his mobile was briefly returned).
In what can only be explained as a retaliatory measure for Malsin’s reporting on Palestine, his long-term girlfriend, Faith Rowold, a two-year, registered volunteer with the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, was also seized and placed in a holding cell pending deportation.
At 4pm when the flight was disembarked in Tel Aviv, Faith used the phone of a fellow traveler, an Israeli national, in the restroom of the airport. She called her sister with a brief message saying she had landed but indicated that there were problems.
At 6:30pm, the office of US Citizen Services was contacted in Jerusalem. Officials called Israeli airport authorities, who assured them that there were no American citizens being held there at that time. The names of Jared and his companion, also a US national, were reportedly not flagged. The official suggested the couple were out having a good time in Tel Aviv and had simply not gotten in touch.
The official also said local police should be contacted if Jared were actually missing, but assured that his contacts at the airport were not holding him. Ma’an staff asked if the official could confirm whether or not Jared and his companion had in fact cleared immigration.
Jared used the mobile of a French traveler admitted to the detention hall at 8:30pm to call his Faith’s sister again and asked a colleague to immediately contact the US Embassy. He said he was being questioned and feared being denied entry into Israel; he provided passport numbers for himself and his fellow traveler.
The US Consulate official was contacted again with the information that Jared was not out in Tel Aviv, but had in fact been in Israeli custody since 11am that morning. The official immediately expressed concern and said he would call his contacts again at the airport.
The official called back at after 9pm and asked for more information on Jared and his fellow traveler: are they married, is she pregnant, is there a Palestinian connection, what newspaper does Jared write for, etc.
The consulate official was informed that Jared worked with Ma’an. He was also informed that while the US, EU and UK fund programs and productions with the Ma’an Network, that staff at each of the consulates consult the English Desk site daily, even hourly, the State of Israel does not recognize Ma’an as a news organization, and therefore denies its journalists press accreditation.
By 11pm, both Jared and Faith were informed that they had been denied entry. Their mobile phones were returned to them for two hours, and then confiscated just after midnight when they were transferred to holding cells.
At 8am, the US consular official was contacted, called security at the airport and was informed that Jared and Faith were set to be deported at 6am on 14 January 2010, on the next direct flight to Prague, where they had been vacationing a week before.