Israeli journalist held in Egypt

Yotam Feldman allegedly tried to sneak across border into Israel with migrant.

March 15, 2010 12:04
2 minute read.
A Sudanese refugee at the border fence between Isr

sudanese at fence 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)


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An Israeli journalist was arrested by Egyptian troops on Monday, while trying to sneak across the border into Israel with a Ghanaian migrant.

A doctor in the Egyptian city of Rafah said Haaretz reporter Yotam Feldman, 30, had lightly hurt his hand while trying to cross a barbed wire fence and had been treated before being transferred back to security officials.

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Feldman was carrying no identification papers or money, an Egyptian security official said.

According to Channel 10, Feldman went to Egypt to investigate the phenomenon of migrants illegally crossing the Israeli border, and the smugglers who bring them over for profit, for the station’s investigative news program Hamakor.

Channel 10 added that it was in touch with Israeli and Egyptian army and diplomatic officials to bring Feldman home safely as quickly as possible.

Also Monday, IDF officials said they were working to secure Feldman’s release.

Haaretz, meanwhile, issued a statement Monday saying that Feldman had requested an unpaid 10-day vacation from the paper to pursue outside projects. The report said the paper had only known that he was working on a report for a separate media outlet, adding that it hoped for his safe return.

In 2005, Feldman got his first scoop when he flew to Burma on his own initiative to cover the Buddhist uprising there. He was detained by the military regime and deported. However, he managed to smuggle photos of the uprising back, and his story received much media attention in Israel.

A former colleague who worked with Feldman for two years at Haaretz said the reporter was “willing to go to great lengths to write about issues close to his heart, such as African refugees in Israel.”

The colleague added that he wasn’t surprised to hear about Feldman’s arrest.

“Yotam was always a very ambitious journalist who’s willing to take risks to get a story,” the colleague said.

The porous border with Egypt is highly dangerous, with Egyptian border guards routinely opening fire on migrants trying to sneak into Israel. In 2009, at least 19 migrants were killed by Egyptian troops while attempting to enter illegally.

Dan Morgan, who worked for several years as a field reporter embedded on NATO missions in Afghanistan and Somalia – places that are “about as dangerous as you could get” – told the Post on Monday that it was easy to second-guess Feldman and people like him when they got caught, and forget the potentially superb reporting they may have achieved.

“If you succeed, you have a fantastic story; if you don’t, people say you’re an idiot,” he stated.

Morgan said stories with a personal angle, going beyond the reports people were used to hearing, could present the issue in a far more engaging and informative manner.

He added that if Feldman had managed to follow a migrant’s journey from Egypt to the border and beyond by traveling with the smugglers, “it would make for a very personal story, a snapshot of the whole situation. It potentially makes for a great story.”

In late December, two Israeli teens were arrested by Egyptian troops after they snuck across the border into Sinai late at night. The two were released a few hours later and told reporters they had infiltrated Egypt as part of a pre-army adventure, saying “we wanted to do something brave right before enlistment.”

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