Israeli soldier used stun gun on photographer during flotilla attack
June 2, 2010 /PN/ Fairfax photographer Kate Geraghty told Australian Consular officials yesterday that she was hit in the upper arm with what she thought might have been a stun gun when Israeli forces boarded the boat she was traveling on as part of a flotilla headed to Gaza. Geraghty also spoke to the Herald, saying she had been ''Tasered'' by the Israelis. ''It hurt and it made me feel sick.''
She sustained bruises, minor burns and nausea, but reported that she had been seen by a doctor after being taken to Israel and was otherwise in good health.
Her account was backed by the first mate on the vessel, Irishman Shane Dillon, who told The Age from Dublin that ''she got a blast across the arm'' when the Israelis approached her.
''She was just doing her journalistic duties … She advised them she was a bona fide photographer … She was just attacked,'' he said.
Huwaida Arraf, a US/Israeli citizen who was aboard the U.S.-flagged vessel Challenger 1 along with Geraghty, told ABC Radio 702 that once the commandos boarded the vessel, one of their first acts was to seize all communication equipment, cameras and memory cards.
"I did not see her being Tasered but when we were all gathered into a room when they had subdued all of us and taken over the boat, she did show us her wound on her arm and she said that she wasn't feeling well and that she was hurt, but I didn't see the actual Tasering and how she reacted to it," Arraf added.
Geraghty was questioned by the Israelis and asked if she knew she had entered a combat zone and told that she faced either immediate deportation or detention. Geraghty said she was an accredited journalist and those rules should not apply. A letter sent on May 24 by the Herald's editor, Peter Fray, to Israeli authorities called for both journalists to be given safe passage if captured.
''In the event that Israel apprehends the vessel on which they are travelling, I urge you to allow McGeough and Geraghty the freedom to pursue their journalistic duty …''
The Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, confirmed the letter was received before the flotilla sailed.
Geraghty was given a receipt for her belongings and said that she had been filmed and photographed in her cell. When she asked why she was being filmed, she was told she was being filmed by ''something that sounded like the Shabat'', probably a reference to the Shabak, Israel's domestic security agency.
Fairfax is yet to confirm that Geraghty was Tasered during the ambush, but a spokesman for the media group said a statement is expected to be issued later today.
Press freedom advocacy organisations have continued to express concern at Israel’s actions since the start of the week, which have seen journalists from multiple countries placed in detention facilities.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) said that over sixty journalists had been travelling among the flotilla’s vessels, with a large number of them still being held.
Another group, the International Press Institute (IPI), urged Israel to respect journalists’ right to report, saying that a failure to do so “could send the message that the Israeli government has something to hide”.