Israeli media forbidden to report case widely covered internationally

Published on 6 April 2010

Reporters Without Borders condemns an absurd court-ordered ban on Israeli media coverage of the case of Anat Kam, an online journalist and former soldier accused of leaking classified military information. An appeal by Channel 10 and the daily Haaretz against the gag order is due to be heard by a Tel Aviv court on 12 April.

Kam’s arrest has been widely reported internationally. A contributor to the website Walla, she has been under house arrest in Tel Aviv since December on treason and spying charges. While doing military service, she allegedly photocopied documents about extra-judicial killings of Palestinian militants and then passed them to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau.

“We call for the lifting of this ban on covering the Kam case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Defence of national security is a legitimate objective but censorship must not be used to prevent the Israel Defence Forces from being held responsible if they broke the law. This is matter of general interest that should be the subject of a proper debate.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The court order is liable to encourage many journalists to censor themselves the next time they learn of a sensitive case involving the IDF, and such a reaction is potentially dangerous for free expression in a country known for its outspoken media. We urge the courts to rescind this order on 12 April, especially as the case has already been covered by many international media.”

Kam will be facing up to 14 years in prison when her trial begins on 14 April. The prosecution was prompted by a report that Blau wrote for Haaretz in November 2008, although the article was approved at the time by the military censorship bureau. It alleged that the IDF broke the law restricting targeted extra-judicial killings of wanted Palestinian militants.

Blau, who is in London at the moment, has not returned to Israel since Kam’s arrest for fear of being arrested himself.

Reports about the case have appeared in several foreign newspapers including The Independent, The National, Le Monde and The Guardian. Several Israeli newspapers have meanwhile made fun of the censors. In an article headlined “What the intelligence agencies don’t want you to know”, Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s most widely-read newspaper, advised its readers on 1 April to read about case by going online and searching for “Israeli journalist gag.”