30 Jun 2015

Maori TV staff released by Israeli Navy

8:12 pm on 30 June 2015

Two Māori Television staff members are expected to be home tomorrow after the ship they were sailing on in the Mediterranean Sea was seized by the Israeli Navy.

Ruwani Perera and Jacob Bryant with other international participants aboard Freedom Flotilla ship ‘Marianne’.

Maori TV journalist Ruwani Perera (second from right) and cameraman Jacob Bryant (left) aboard Freedom Flotilla ship 'Marianne'. Photo: Kiaoragaza.net

Native Affairs senior reporter Ruwani Perera and camera operator Jacob Bryant were invited to join the Freedom Flotilla by New Zealand human rights organisation Kia Ora Gaza.

The television crew was there to document their activities.

The pair left Auckland on 17 June and planned to come home on 5 July, but their trip was cut short by the Israeli Navy.

The flotilla was carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza when the navy intercepted it.

Maori TV's head of news and current affairs, Maramena Roderick, said Ms Perera had been in regular contact and the pair were expected home in the next 48 hours.

"She [Ruwani Perera] has rung her sister since the boat was detained by Israeli authorities to let her know that she is safe and well, and not be to be alarmed," Ms Roderick said.

"The New Zealand Embassy in Ankara, in Turkey, has spoken to Ruwani as well, who wanted us [at Māori TV] to know that she's been treated with respect by the Israeli authorities. The crew will be heading home this afternoon.

"We appreciate the assistance of embassy officials to bring our crew home. The contingencies plans we had all worked so carefully on are now falling into place."

Ms Roderick says the safety of the crew would always remain a priority for the network. "Our team is committed to their safe return home."

In Parliament today, Prime Minister John Key refused to condemn Israel's boarding of the Freedom Flotilla or its ongoing blockade of Gaza.