Israeli police impersonate reporters

Israel Materials 6 November 2007 11:50 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Israeli police disguised themselves as a TV news crew in order to arrest a wanted Palestinian, provoking an outcry from critics who said the sting threatened to put the lives of journalists at risk.

Police said Monday that the target of the operation was Nadim Injaz, a Palestinian man who had been wanted for making unspecified threats.

Authorities say Injaz burst into the British Embassy in Tel Aviv last year, claimed to have a gun, demanded political asylum and threatened suicide. Although the weapon turned out to be plastic, Injaz was convicted on charges related to the embassy storming and spent several months in prison before being released a few weeks ago.

Since his release, Injaz, a resident of the West Bank town of Ramallah, has made "a number of threats," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, without elaborating.

He said police impersonated a Channel 2 TV news team "in order to meet with the suspect and have him arrested." He noted that Injaz "had constant contact with journalists and the press, both prior and after" the embassy incident.

Injaz now awaits trial in connection with his latest arrest last month.

Channel 2 executive director Avi Weiss sent a furious letter to Police Commissioner David Cohen, the Haaretz newspaper reported on its Web site.

"Impersonation is liable to create the mistaken impression that the news organization is involved in some way in an investigation or other police operations, and thereby compromise its status as an objective and independent news outlet," Haaretz cited Weiss as writing. Weiss was not immediately available for comment.

Police contacted Channel 2 and the reporter they impersonated to tell them about the operation after the fact and "that it was crucial to do so for the case," Rosenfeld said.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents Israel-based staff of overseas media, condemned the subterfuge, saying it endangered reporters' freedom to carry out their duties and their personal security.

"Journalists depend on being judged as objective observers, and any move that threatens this crucial status, directly challenges our safety and ability to work," it said in a statement. "We urge the Israeli Police not to repeat this regrettable incident."