JERUSALEM (AP) — An Associated Press journalist on Tuesday was prevented from covering a visit by Britain’s Prince William to the prime minister’s official residence after Israeli security agents questioned him about his religion and ethnic background.
Nebi Qena, the AP’s chief television producer for Israel and the Palestinian territories, was held at the entrance to the residence for 45 minutes, forcing him to miss the event, while other journalists were allowed to enter. Netanyahu’s office later apologized, citing “human error.”
Qena is an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo and an Albanian citizen. He has been with the AP for 10 years, including three based in Jerusalem.
He said he was repeatedly questioned by security guards about his “ethnic origin.” AP colleagues, on the scene and in the Jerusalem bureau, were asked by Netanyahu aides about Qena’s religion and whether he was a Muslim as they tried to secure him entrance.
Qena had registered for the event ahead of time and been assured he would be allowed to enter. The AP was serving as the video press pool for international media.
“The Associated Press decries this blatant ethnic and religious profiling of an AP journalist and calls on the prime minister’s office to cease such biased practices immediately,” said Lauren Easton, the AP’s director of media relations.
International media have experienced repeated run-ins with Israeli security over apparent ethnic profiling. Over the years, there have been several incidents of security agents ordering international and Arab journalists to undergo strip searches at Netanyahu’s office, in addition to entering through metal detectors. More recently, at least four international journalists have been forced to undergo strip searches at an Israeli border crossing while returning from the Gaza Strip.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists working for dozens of international media outlets, condemned what it called “disgraceful and indefensible behavior.”
“We call on the prime minister’s office to apologize immediately, and urge the Duke of Cambridge’s office to speak out against this offensive behavior, which has marred a historic visit. Enough is enough,” the FPA said.
The AP’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Josef Federman, is the chairman of the FPA.
The security department in Netanyahu’s office issued a statement regretting “distress or discomfort.”
“This incident was caused by human error and will be investigated and the necessary changes will be made immediately,” it said.
William’s office referred queries to the U.K. Embassy, which had no immediate comment.