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English-language editor of Palestinian news agency deported

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 21 Jan. 2010 - Jared Malsin, editor of the English section of Ma'an News Agency, was deported by the Israeli authorities on Wednesday. Following a week in custody at Ben Gurion International Airport, the American journalist was flown to New York City yesterday morning.

Malsin was detained on 12 January at the airport after landing, as he and his girlfriend were returning from a holiday in the Czech Republic. Israeli security agents had confiscated their cell phones before they boarded their flight. On landing, the two were interrogated for eight hours. Malsin's girlfriend, Faith Rowold, who had been working as a volunteer for the Lutheran Church in Israel, was deported early last Thursday.

The Israeli authorities have accused Malsin of entering Israel illegally, "refusal to cooperate," "lying to border officials," "exploiting his Jewishness to get into Israel," and "entering Israel on the basis of lies," according to Ma'an sources.

The Israeli authorities also noted that Malsin wrote articles from within the Palestinian territories, including reports criticizing Israel. Press freedom groups including IPI, as well as Malsin's colleagues at the news agency, are concerned that this is the real reason behind his deportation. Ma'an Editor-in-Chief Nasser Allaham told IPI that the Israeli authorities "knew he was a journalist working in the Palestinian media, and they don't want our English page to be strong."

According to updates from the news agency, Malsin was kept in a windowless detention facility for the entire week, and was not permitted to receive changes of clothes.

On Sunday, a hearing was postponed in what Ma'an legal advisers think was a "foot-dragging technique" to encourage Malsin to drop the case. Malsin's deportation comes after complicated legal proceedings, which were ended when the editor agreed to sign a motion, delivered by the Israeli Interior Ministry.

To the alarm of his legal counsellor and his colleagues at Ma'an, Malsin was not in the company of his lawyer when the motion was signed. According to Ma'an, Malsin said he believed that the agreement allowed him to leave the airport while his case continued. He told the news agency, "There's no such thing as a voluntary deportation. I was deported, period."

IPI Director David Dadge said: "The International Press Institute is very concerned by the Israeli government's decision to deny Jared Malsin entry into the country, particularly because it appears that he may have been tricked into essentially signing his own deportation order. We hope that Jared Malsin and the team at Ma'an will be able to clear the legal hurdles necessary for him to return to the West Bank and continue his work there. This entire situation highlights again the need for an Israeli policy towards journalists that is both transparent and in line with international standards for press freedom."

Founded in 2005 with assistance from the Netherlands and Denmark, Ma'an now receives funding through US government agencies. The news outlet offers reports in English and Arabic on the West Bank and Gaza. Journalists at the agency, like most Palestinian journalists working for agencies based in the Palestinian territories, receive only Palestinian press accreditation which is not recognized by Israel.
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