Jun 16th, 2010 | By Bikya Masr Staff
When Israeli naval commandos intercepted the Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla on 31 May, they searched the journalists along with all the other people aboard and confiscated their professional equipment and material, as well as identity documents and personal effects. Two weeks later, the journalists are still waiting for the return of their belongings.
If the equipment and personal effects are not returned, the Israeli soldiers can be regarded as guilty of robbery. The number of journalists filing complaints is growing.
Reporters Without Borders supports the attempts being made by journalists to recover their property from the Israeli authorities and, if they are unsuccessful, the press freedom organization demands that they be compensated in full for their losses.
Marcello Faraggi, an Italian journalist based in Brussels, told Reporters Without Borders on 8 June that he filed a complaint with the Brussels police accusing the Israeli authorities of armed robbery. He found his camera bag sealed when he recovered it after being deported to Istanbul and on opening it, he found it to be full of old clothes and rubbish.
“My camera was not there,” he said. “I lost more than 20,000 euros of equipment on this job. I was aboard that boat as a journalist, not an activist. The Israeli soldiers are guilty of an act of piracy.”
In an interview for the 13 June issue of the Tel Aviv-based daily Haaretz, Manolo Luppichini of the Italian TV station RAI 3 said his credit card was used to make purchases after it was confiscated by the Israeli army. “They took two cameras, microphones, a stand and other equipment from me and my photographer,” he said. “They took one of the cameras as I was taking photographs. Afterwards they took my wallet, passport, bag and all personal effects on the boat.”
After he was deported, he discovered that purchases had been made with his confiscated credit card, both while he was being held in the Beer Sheva detention center and after his return to Italy.
“One purchase was from a vending machine in Tel Aviv for about 10 shekels on 2 June,” he said. Another purchase, for 240 shekels, was made in Gedera when Luppichini was back in the Italian city of Bologna. “The sums were not large,” he said. “But in principle it is theft, for all intents and purposes.”
Luppichini has written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the foreign and defense ministers and to Israel’s ambassador in Italy asking how his credit card came to be used in this manner and requesting the immediate return of all of his equipment.
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman issued a statement saying that, with the exception of “magnetic media,” which was retained for security reasons, the personal belongings of all the people aboard the flotilla were put on the Turkish planes in which they were deported. The IDF was considering whether the “magnetic media” would be returned, he added.
As regards Luppichini’s credit card, he said the foreign ministry and police were investigating. If it was established that it was stolen, “the matter will be dealt with severely,” he said.