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Forty-eight hours after flotilla raid, some journalists are released but others remain in detention

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 2 June 2010 - Today Israel deported hundreds of activists and a number of foreign journalists who had been detained after a Gaza-bound flotilla they were aboard was stormed on Tuesday in an operation that left nine people dead. However, several journalists remained in custody at 15:30 CET.

Mustafa Baig, from Aaj TV's editorial desk, told IPI that two of the broadcasters' journalists, Talat Hussein and Raza Mahmood Agha, were being released. "They were handed over to the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv" and will be returning to Pakistan on Thursday, he said, adding: "Everything they have has been captured by the Israeli forces. Their equipment has been confiscated."

The Hindu newspaper quoted Hussain as telling Aaj TV by phone from Jordan: "Four people were shot in the forehead in front me. I witnessed four people dying."

Meanwhile, Peter Kerr, executive editor of Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, told IPI that Kate Geraghty, one of two of the newspaper's journalists detained, had been visited by consular officials. According to the consular officials, Kerr added, "Kate says that when the Israelis boarded the vessel she was hit in the upper arm by some form of weapon, which she thought might have been a stun gun." She sustained bruising, a minor burn on the upper arm, and has felt nauseous since being hit.

Kerr said that consular officials had reported that the other Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Paul McGeough, was "openly saying he would fight deportation." Kerr was informed that people who had signed a deportation order would leave on Wednesday, while those who had refused to sign such an order would be deported on Thursday."

But he added: "If Paul wishes to make some legal stand, it's not clear what this would mean." He said the newspaper was providing a lawyer for McGeough.

The two journalists are not being allowed contact with one another, he said.

South African media reported that Cape Town radio journalist Gadijah Davids has been released.

"We spoke directly to her for half a minute last night. She was just telling us that she is on her way home," Davids' mother, Magboeba Davids, was quoted as saying.

Davids, too, had been "separated" from the equipment she used as a Cape Town-based Radio786 reporter, and it was unclear if it had been returned.

IPI Director David Dadge said: "Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this incident is the signal that Israel is sending to repressive nations across the globe. By its actions the Israeli government is essentially saying that it is acceptable to jam the communications of journalists, confiscate their equipment and footage, and arrest and hold journalists against their will. These actions are wholly unacceptable from a country that claims to respect freedom of the press. Israel must understand that, while it continues to hold journalists and their footage, it is undermining its own claims about this incident and lending credence to alternative perceptions."
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