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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Israel bars journalist from Prince William event because he’s Muslim

The Albanian national was repeatedly asked about his “ethnic origin”

Britain's Prince William (C-L) walks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-R) during a reception at the British ambassador's residence in the Israeli town of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv, on June 26, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / AFP
Britain's Prince William (C-L) walks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-R) during a reception at the British ambassador's residence in the Israeli town of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv, on June 26, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / AFP

An Associated Press journalist was prevented from covering a visit by Britain's Prince William to the Israeli prime minister's official residence after security agents questioned him about his religion and ethnic background.

Nebi Qena, the AP's chief television producer for Israel and Palestine, was held at the entrance to the residence for 45 minutes, forcing him to miss Tuesday's event, while other journalists were allowed to enter. Mr Netanyahu's office later apologised, citing “human error”.

Mr Qena, an Albanian citizen, 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."

His colleagues were questioned about his religion and whether he was a Muslim. He had already registered for the event and been informed that he would be allowed to attend.

“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.

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The Foreign Press Association, which represents media covering Israel and Palestine, condemned the “disgraceful” incident.

“We call on the prime minister’s office to apologise immediately, and urge the Duke of Cambridge’s office to speak out against this offensive behaviour, which has marred a historic visit,” the FPA said. “Enough is enough.”

After meeting Mr Netanyahu on Tuesday, Prince William paid the first official British royal visit to Palestine on Wednesday, meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, touring a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah and voicing his hope for peace in the Middle East.

"I'm very glad our two countries work so closely together and have had success stories with education and relief work in the past, so, long may that continue," William told President Mahmoud Abbas.

"My sentiments are the same as yours in hoping that there is a lasting peace in the region," the prince said.