Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has summoned Haaretz journalist Uri Blau to a formal hearing – the last procedural step before prosecuting Blau in a criminal court. The 7th eye website reports [Hebrew] that the hearing will take place towards the end of the month. Last March, The Tel Aviv Office for the General Prosecution announced that it was considering prosecuting Blau for unauthorized possession of classified information.
Following the procedures against Blau, dozens of Israeli journalists have signed a petition, demanding not to put Haartez’s reporter on trail (my translation from Hebrew).
We – journalists and media people who fear for our professional freedom – call upon the Attorney General not to prosecute Haaretz’s journalist Uri Blau for holding classified documents. Some of us have our reservations regarding the conduct of Blau and Haaretz throughout the affair. Yet we are all concerned about the consequences of the Attorney General’s decision regarding the work of all journalists in Israel.
Putting a journalist on trial for possession of secret documents constitutes significant injury to the independence of the media. The immediate significance of the decision will be in putting restraints on our ability to reveal injustice and corruption [...] This precedent would severely harm the [ability to conduct] investigative journalism, which is at the heart of the free press. It is impossible to expose corruption—in any field—without holding documents, also those that are considered classified [...]
Uri Blau, an investigative reporter, received hundreds of classified IDF documents from former soldier Anat Kamm. Blau published several pieces in Haaretz based on the documents, including one story which revealed that senior IDF officers—including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazy—might have knowingly violated a Supreme Court decision when they ordered targeted killings of Palestinian militants even when those could have been captured alive.
The story was approved for publication by the Army Censorship.
Later on, the Internal Security Service (Shabak) conducted an investigation which led to Anat Kamm, a former soldier at central command HQ, as the source for the leak. Kamm has been under house arrest for more than a year now. She recently agreed to a plea bargain with the prosecution which would mean up to 9 years in prison.
Following Kamm’s arrest, Blau left the country to London. Attorneys for Haaretz have negotiated his return with the Shabak; according to the agreement between the two sides, Blau will return the documents to the state. The Security Service later claimed that Blau violated the agreement. According to Blau, all the documents Anat Kamm handed him were returned to the Army. Blau also agreed to have his computer destroyed by the Internal Security Service.
Blau is to be charged according to article 113C of the criminal law (holding secret information), which is part of the espionage law.
Technically, every reporter in Israel who has witnessed or held a secret document can be charged with the same offense.
The organizers of the petition against the prosecution of Uri Blau urge foreign journalists to support their call to the Attorney General. If you are a journalist or a media person and you wish to add your name to an English petition (to be published soon), please send your full name and organization to the following e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org