Some 60 broadcast and print journalists who were aboard the flotilla that was raided by Israeli forces on Monday have reportedly been released by the Israeli military and are being deported from Israel along with the 700 activists who were also aboard. However, all of their cameras, film, video recordings, satellite phones, and other equipment may have been confiscated or destroyed by the Israelis, the international Committee for the Protection of Journalists indicated on its website. Reporters said many of them were handcuffed, roughed up, and searched by the Israeli soldiers. A cameraman for al-Jazeera said that during the raid his camera was smashed and his arm was broken. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which has been releasing daily condemnations of the treatment of reporters during the raid, issued a new statement on Wednesday, saying "We point out that the journalists were there to do their job, which was to cover what happened. They should not be confused with the activists. ... We call on the Israeli authorities to free all the detained journalists and return their equipment, which was seized by the military." Paul McGeough, chief correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, who was aboard the flotilla with photographer Kate Geraghty, phoned his newspaper from a plane carrying them to Turkey. He said that Geraghty was "recovering" from being hit by a stun gun or taser while she was snapping photos of the attack. The Irish first mate aboard the ship said that he witnessed Israeli soldiers ripping equipment from McGeough. "She was just doing her journalistic duties. ... She was just attacked," he told the SMH. On the other hand, video from a live webcast showed activists attacking the Israeli soldiers as they attempted to board the ships. On Fox News, whose commentators ordinarily take a strong pro-Israeli stance, anchor Shepard Smith appeared to rip into Asst. Secretary of State P.J. Crowley for this country's measured response to the Israeli raid. At one point he remarked, "Almost every country on planet earth has spoken out with an official position. Where is the United States' position on this matter? I know it's not for you to come up with a position, but clearly there isn't one yet." But Bob Epstein, executive producer of NBC Nightly News, told the BroadcaSting & Cable website that it was difficult to sort out the facts of the story. "It's always been a tough story to cover," Epstein said. "There's a built-in bias on every side of this story. ... But that's been part of the problem in covering the Middle East, probably forever."

03/06/2010