2 Israeli journalists held by U.S. troops
By Haaretz Service and UPI - 30 March
U.S. troops in Iraq detained two Israeli journalists and a Portuguese colleague on suspicion of espionage and beat one of them, relatives said Friday. They were released after 48 hours.
The journalists, Dan Scemama, of Channel One Television and Boaz Bismuth of Yedioth Aharonoth entered Iraq without proper accreditation. Scemama said earlier in the week that he had been denied accreditation because he represented Israeli television. ?
The two teamed up with the Portuguese TV reporter, rented a jeep, and entered Iraq on their own, driving alongside American convoys. They phoned in reports based on conversations with U.S. troops and Iraqis.
Speaking to Channel One news from Kuwait, Dan Scemama said Friday that the Americans treated them as spies and terrorists for the 48 hours of their detention. "We were humiliated for many hours. They did not let us eat and they took all the means of communication we had on us." Scemama's girlfriend, Shlomit Yarkoni, said the journalists were forced to stop Tuesday, beside six tanks, because of sandstorms. "They couldn't see the road... [and] the Americans advised them not to move because they would not be identified in the dust and... [troops had] orders to shoot at almost anything that moves."
Early Wednesday, soldiers woke them up at gunpoint, and accused them of being spies. The reporters were told to pick up their shirts and let down their pants to prove they were not carrying bombs.
Scemama's sister, Dina Harel, told UPI they were told to drop to the sand, face down. They were later kept in a closed jeep for 36 hours.
The Portuguese journalist asked to phone home and was beaten, the two said. His ribs were broken and he is now hospitalized.
Yedioth Aharonoth, concerned about loss of contact with the journalists, had asked the Pentagon to help find them. After 48 hours, a helicopter flew the reporters to an American military base in Kuwait, where they were released and given their phones back. Their rented jeep was impounded, Harel said. But also in Kuwait, "they treated us as suspects," Scemama said. "We were in the hands of soldiers who were only concerned with keeping us from speaking to each other." He added that he had received the impression that the American army had done everything it could to ensure that not one independent journalist was reporting from Iraq.