Three Turkish journalists, including the Daily Sabah's economy editor invited by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to cover Cyber Week 2017 taking place in Tel Aviv, were subjected to degrading treatment by Israeli authorities, who stopped them for additional security checks before entering the conference.
Daily Sabah's Economy editor Şeyma Eraz, Fox Turkey reporter Emre İzkübarlas and Kenan Özcan were invited by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Israeli consulate in Istanbul to attend Cyber Week 2017.
Waiting in the line up to go through security checks before entering the conference hall, the three journalists were approached by Israeli security officials, who directed them to separate places without informing them about what was going on, unlike 30 other journalists who entered the conference hall without being subjected to additional checks.
Eraz noted that Israeli security officials searched through all of their equipment and belongings, and even tore apart a microphone and camera belonging to Fox Turkey reporters.
"I asked officials the reason why I was waiting, but they did not give an explanation," Eraz said. She added that she was taken to a separate area to be searched by two female officers, who instructed her to take her headscarf off.
Eraz refused, and asked officers to return her belongings, while she later learned that İzkübarlas and Özcan were told by Israeli security officials to take their pants off.
She noted that she called the Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Media Academy and Branding Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ron Gerstenfeld, who spoke with security officials and told them that the Turkish journalists were guests of the foreign ministry.
An official from the Israeli prime ministry also apologized and tried to explain that it is about security procedures, Eraz said, adding "I told him if the security officials do not apologize, the apology does not really count."
"I have been to many countries, attending many meetings attended by prime ministers and presidents, but I have never been humiliated like this [in] my entire life," Eraz told the security director who apologized to the Turkish journalists and she added that the treatment does not suit the normalization process between Turkey and Israel. "I asked him how do they decide to check people in detail, and how possibly can they ask a man to take his pants off, and he simply responded by saying that he cannot share the details of their security policy with me," Eraz added.
The Turkish journalists were approached by Gerstenfeld as they were leaving the conference hall area in protest after the incident, who asked them to stay and attend the conference.
"I told him that we are only journalists, not terrorists and that we cannot stand being humiliated in such a degrading manner," Eraz told Gerstenfeld.
Later on, the Turkish journalists were invited by Israeli Minister of Communication Ayoob Kara, who apologized for the incident and highlighted that relations with Turkey are significant for Israel.
In a video posted on his official Facebook account, Kara said:
"Relations with Turkey are only getting better and closer - and they are important to the government of Israel, the State of Israel and the Israeli economy ... It is important that these relations do not hurt, and I hope that cases like the one that the journalists' delegation from Turkey described to me will not recur" Kara told the Turkish journalists.
He also noted that it is crucial to ensure that similar incidents do not happen to other foreign media delegations who come to Israel to cover events.
Cyber Week is an annual cybersecurity conference held at Tel Aviv University, and this year was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Relations between Turkey and Israel declined in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship en route to deliver humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The raid killed 10 activists.
The two countries signed an agreement later on and restored diplomatic relations, and aim to further improve collaborations particularly in trade.