Limassol port is security cordoned, you can’t get near the disembarkation area.

I’m a freelance writer, here at this time by accident; I don’t have a press pass.

I’ve taken some photographs with my new Benq digital: some Cypriot troops guarding the port; military vehicles; a BBC TV crew, nothing outstanding; I’m a little disappointed but I knew it would be like this.

I know some journalists who drink in the bar of the Metropole Hotel, so I decide to go there, have a beer or two with them and see if I can get a feel of what’s going on.

Another disappointment: they’ve obviously decided to drink somewhere else this evening.

I’m just about ready to leave when a tall, bald headed guy with a distinctive scar across his chin nods to me and strikes up what becomes a strange and one sided conversation.

“You are a journalist?” he asks.

I tell him I’m on holiday with my family, that we’re living on the other side of the island but, as I’m a freelance writer, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to do some fishing around Limassol and see what I could catch.

“You know who is the most powerful person in Israel at the moment, if you are a journalist?” he asks. “I’ll tell you. She is an officer in the Israeli army called Sima Vaknin. Her powers are extraordinary, she can do almost anything – shut down newspapers, pull the plug on radio stations, throw journalists into jail without trial… she is the chief military censor.”

“I’m glad we’re not in Israel,” I say.

“Maybe not physically,” he replies, “but as I said, this woman is very powerful.”

He goes on to tell me that to operate in Israel media organisations must abide by the rules and conditions laid down by Colonel Vaknin.

These rules and conditions preclude the filing of real time reports locating missile hits; reporting of hits on army bases or strategic targets; reports of missiles landing in the sea; reports indicating when citizens are permitted to leave the bunkers for supplies; reports on the movements of senior officials; reports on the availability of shelters in particular ares where public defence is weak…

In short, any reports of any real significance at all.

So far in the current conflict about one Hezbollah rocket in every hundred has killed an Israeli.

They’re fired blind and most of them land in empty fields, abandoned streets, the sea; the danger to Israeli citizens is a purely random one and Israel obviousy wants to retain that condition.

“Report immediately that a missile has splashed, for example, into the mediterranean,” he says, “and any Hezbollah guerrilla with an internet connection knows to aim left. Report that an oil refinery in Haifa went up in flames, he’ll reload. Report that a senior official is going up north and it will be raining rockets there in no time.

“It’s the logic of censorship, my friend, you as a journalist should know this.”

“But I told you,” I say, “I am not a journalist.”

He doesn’t reply, just smiles and lights a cigarette.

I sense a certain hostility so I decide to go to the washroom before saying goodbye and starting off home.

When I return he’s gone.

Later that night I decide to check out the photographs I took that day with my new Benq digital – it’s empty, the memory card has been completely wiped.

  

Advertisements