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Israeli reporters posed as Ecuadorians to shadow Iranian women at World Cup

The ruse places the women at risk, according to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, who will press for further action.

Jerusalem24 – Two Israeli journalists covering the World Cup in Qatar posed as journalists from Ecuador in order to shadow female Iranian fans for a whole week.

The ruse is “against international standards and journalistic ethics” and potentially places the Iranian woman in danger without their knowledge or consent, Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) board member Musa Alshaer tells Jerusalem24.

This kind of deception also presents a risk to the credibility of journalists everywhere, says Alshaer, and “requires putting heavy penalties” on those involved.

The two journalists, Raz Shechnik and Oz Moalem, reveal the deception in an article in Yedioth Ahranoth in which they complain about their treatment as Israeli journalists in Qatar.

Shechnik shared a portion of the same text via Twitter on Saturday.

“We didn’t want to write this. We always thought that we, the journalists, are not the story.[…] But after ten days in Doha, it is impossible not to share with you what we are going through here. […] We feel hated, shrouded in hostility, unwanted.”

Shechnik and Moalem write that in their interactions with football fans, they initially identified themselves as Israelis. “But when we saw that it inevitably leads to a difficult confrontation with Arabs […] we decided to identify ourselves as journalists from Ecuador. This is how we were able to accompany Iranian women for a week for an article.”

The article in question was published in the Yedioth Ahranoth “7 Days” supplement in Hebrew on Friday, and quotes the women as saying they are in Qatar to draw attention to the Iranian regime’s violations, with football being “completely secondary.”

According to Alshaer, the article presents a danger to its Iranian interviewees due to Iran’s own rules against interactions with Israel, which it does not recognize as a state. “If an Iranian is seen on an Israeli channel, it puts that man or woman at risk in front of the Iranian authorities – which is against international law.”

Iran’s parliament passed a law criminalizing any “prearranged contact” between its constituents and Israelis in May 2020, incurring a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, 74 lashes, or $4,800 in fines.

“It’s a very, very risky action from those Israeli journalists,” says Alshaer, who goes on to say he has seen videos of Israeli journalists in Qatar alternatively posing as Ecuadorian, Bulgarian, or Columbian journalists.

A video shared on social media shows Israeli journalist Moav Vardi claiming he is German. Kan reporter Vardi angered Columbian singer Maluma, causing him to walk out during an interview on 18 November, when he queried the singer’s involvement in creating the World Cup’s official anthem despite Qatar’s human rights violations. Vardi has also appeared on multiple videos diffused on social media attempting to interview uncooperative fans, who told him he was “not welcome” in Qatar.

Alshaer thinks these incidents at the World Cup are reflective of popular attitudes in the wider Arab world. “It shows that this normalization of relations between the governments here or there and Israel is not a fact among the people. It doesn’t show the reality of the people’s opinion and desire.”

The PJS will be pressing for further action concerning the Ecuador incident, says Alshaer.

“As the Palestinian syndicate we will write to the International Federation of Journalists, the Latin American Federation of Journalists, and the Ecuadorian Syndicate of Journalists in order to ask them to take action against those Israeli journalists.”

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