Reuters cameraman detained at Israeli airport

Israel denied entry on Wednesday to Reuters cameraman Ahmed Bahaddou, a Belgian national, and was detaining him overnight in a cell at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

Daniel Seaman, the head of the Israeli government’s press office, said the Interior Ministry had denied Bahaddou entry under pressure from trade unions that oppose foreign cameramen working in Israel.

The move was unusual because most foreign journalists are allowed to enter Israel on a tourist visa and only later receive press accreditation and permission to work.

The Israeli government has also cracked down on Palestinian journalists this year.

It has refused to accredit most of those working for foreign news organisations because of what it says are security concerns stemming from a nearly two-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

Police said Bahaddou would be deported on Thursday to Amman, from where he had flown in on Wednesday.

Bahaddou has worked for Reuters as a cameraman based in Brussels for nine years. He has frequently worked for Reuters in Israel and has entered and received accreditation without any problems on at least four previous visits.

Bahaddou said he was being held in a small cell at the airport with five Chinese nationals and a Hungarian tourist.

“I feel humiliated that despite an understanding with the government press office they don’t want to do anything about my situation,” he told Reuters by mobile phone. “I don’t feel like I’m in a democratic country.”

He said his cell contained twin beds and an air conditioner and was noisy because it was next to the baggage ramp.