Three days ago at 6:30am Avi Yemini, Australian-Israeli journalist and Sydney Watson, Australian-American journalist and Sky News contributor, were detained at LAX International Airport in Los Angeles California.
Prompting Yemini and Watson’s trip to the U.S. was Comedy Central and comedian Jim Jefferies production of dishonest media featuring Yemini.
Upon their arrival they were greeted, separated and interrogated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in conjunction with the FBI. During the interrogations the FBI informed Yemini that they had received several complaints made by Comedy Central and Jim Jefferies alleging Yemini was entering the U.S. with the intention of committing violence against Jefferies.
CBP maintained they had reviewed both Yemini and Watson’s writings online prior to their arrival. During the interrogation the FBI referred to several of Yemini’s social media posts, supplied to them courtesy of Comedy Central. These posts included an image that U.K.-based media company Politicalite used in an article about Yemini and Watson’s tour depicting Yemini as an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldier holding a firearm. The FBI questioned Yemini about his IDF training and asked if he intended to acquire firearms or weapons in the U.S. for his interaction with Jefferies.
Yemini stated, “the only weapon I needs is my microphone and camera” and that neither he nor Watson has ever incited violence and has no intention to do so. Watson insisted their sole intention was to report the news surrounding Comedy Central’s dishonesty and they have never once approached their journalism with violence.
After hours of questioning thanked Watson and Yemini for their cooperation and determined they do not believe they pose a threat.
However, the FBI’s decision to let Yemini into the country was overturned by CBP due to a technical error on Yemini’s visa waiver. The error made over two years ago rendered it “null and void” despite Yemini using the same waiver to enter the United States only 6 months earlier, when he entered the country without incident. Border Protection agents instructed Yemini to return to Australia and apply for a new visa in order to gain access to the United States.
After a total of over 15 hours detained Yemini was escorted by two armed police officers to his plane home where his passport was handed to Qantas staff. They were instructed not to give it back to him until he was on Australian soil.
I believe in border security. If what Border Protection says is right, then I will reapply for my visa this week. But it will be a test to see if this is truly about a minor technical error,”
If it is, then I have no problem. But if I am denied my visa, then it is obvious that Comedy Central wielded more power than CBP is letting on”.
What cannot be argued is that Comedy Central had both Yemini and Watson detained, and had a major hand in Yemini’s deportation from the United States.
This was one of the most stressful and emotionally taxing situations I’ve ever experienced. Being treated like a criminal was unwarranted. In addition, I never expected as an American citizen, to be detained simply for wanting to report on the news,”
Both Watson and Yemini feel their treatment by the United States agencies was excessive and had Watson not been an American citizen, she too would have been deported. Watson and Yemini believe their treatment sets a precedent that any organization or individual can profess they have concerns about their safety and see any journalist or other media entity denied entry to the United States, regardless if there is credible fear. Yemini and Watson were treated like criminals, when their sole intention was to report on the news and continue their journalism.
Comedy Central have refused to respond to criticisms of being caught out by a hidden camera trying to smear Yemini. They continue to block and delete much social media criticism. Now, they are effectively trying to have Yemini and Watson physically banned from the USA so they can continue to ignore their disingenuous editing practices.
At this time, Yemini and Watson will be exploring legal avenues against Comedy Central.
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