SA journalist under house arrest in Israel

South African journalist Mark Klusener was ordered to pay 25 000 shekels (about R53 700) and placed under house arrest by a court in Jerusalem on Tuesday, said his wife, Peroshni Govender.

Klusener and other staff members were arrested for operating a pirate radio station. He is news director of 93.6 Ram FM, based in Jerusalem.

Speaking shortly after his court appearance, Govender said her husband cannot have any contact with other staff members of the radio station who were also arrested. He is permitted to have contact only with his lawyers and cannot “organise gatherings or meet with other people”.

“On Monday afternoon the Israeli Ministry of Communications officials and the Jerusalem police swooped on 93.6 Ram FM studios in Jerusalem,” the station said on its website.

“The Israeli authorities alleged that Ram FM is operating without the necessary broadcasting permit in Jerusalem. The station maintains that its operations are within the parameters of the law.

“The legalities of Monday’s detention of staff members and seizure of equipment are being examined by the station’s legal team,” it said.

Govender said it was not clear whether her husband could speak to his family. House arrest was only granted apparently after an Israeli citizen stood surety for Klusener and promised that he would not leave the country.

Shortly after 2pm on Tuesday, the station announced on air that the seven staffers had been released, but did not provide further details.

“Now he can do the house work,” Govender said jokingly.

The other staff members were released under similar conditions, with the exception that their bail amount was set at 10 000 shekels because they were all Israeli citizens.

Ram FM news editor Xolani Gwala, also a South African, watched the police raid from Ramallah on a monitor linking the two studios. “We saw them disassembling the studio,” he said.

Gwala said eight people were initially arrested, but one of them, an administrative assistant, was released at 10pm on Monday night. Apart from Klusener, who was the only South African in custody, the others still being held were the station manager, two DJs, a technician and two journalists.

“It seems that one of the frequencies in Jerusalem is a pirate frequency or had not been registered with them [the authorities],” Govender had told the South African Press Association earlier.

Klusener was held at a police station for four hours after his arrest, before being informed that he would be charged with operating a pirate radio station. He spent Monday night sleeping on the floor of a cell containing eight or nine other prisoners.

Govender said she was prevented from taking him food and chocolate. “I was not allowed to give it to him. I wanted him to keep his sugar levels up.”

Established by the South African company Primedia, Ram FM is Palestinian-licensed, but broadcasts throughout Israel and Palestine and describes itself as apolitical. Primedia, which has a 15% stake, said it could not immediately comment on the arrests.

South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday night that the embassy in Tel Aviv had not been advised of the reasons for Klusener’s arrest, but would remain in contact with the Israeli authorities to seek consular access and find an amicable solution.

Departmental spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said on Tuesday that Klusener was comfortable.

According to his biography on the station’s website, Klusener has worked for newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal and the Sunday Times, and was a reporter for Bophuthatswana television and Talk Radio 702.

He worked for Swiss and French television stations before moving to e.tv, where he was senior producer on 3rd Degree. He has also worked for a number of international media including the Scotsman, the Economist, Channel 4, Radio France International and Vatican Radio.—Sapa

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