The Israeli media has been on edge in recent weeks over the unprecedented case of journalists privy to sensitive military documents. Uri Blau, a reporter for the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, got about 2,000 pages of documents from a former Israeli soldier who leaked the information to him illegally.
Blau is currently in London, where he fled with some of the documents (some have been returned). He is awaiting a legal decision over whether he could be prosecuted for his role in leaking the information in the documents to the public.
The case is notable as it involves Shin Bet, Israel’s international security agency, and the question of whether future journalists holding sensitive documents will be subject to arrest and/or prosecution.
An increasing amount of support has come from the Israeli journalism community over the case, as reporters in various media voice their objections to subjecting reporters to legal battles over leaked documents.
According to a report in Haaretz on April 15:
“We feel the Blau case is unique and we are concerned this unique case will bring about a dangerous precedent,” the journalists wrote. “As of today, prosecution authorities don’t seek to try reporters for the offense of retaining classified information, an offense most of us are guilty of in one way or another. We believe this policy represents the appropriate balance between freedom of the press and of expression and security needs. It would be wrong to change this balance without any real public debate.”
A scathing commentary in the Jerusalem Post on the issue gives a very different perspective, however. The Post asserts that Haaretz manipulated the story to its advantage during the period when there was a gag order against international media reporting on it. They also raise the issue of the other key player and reporter in the scandal and the source of the leaked documents, Anat Kamm.
The Post commentary says, in part:
Anat Kamm, a reporter hired by the Walla Web portal when it was partly owned by Haaretz, had been under house arrest for four months. She is on trial for acts of espionage with the intent of harming national security that she committed not as a reporter, but during her service in the IDF [Israeli Defense Force]. Not only did she not disappear, she continued reporting for Walla, while under house arrest until the end of March.
Haaretz staff reporter Uri Blau fled the country not to protect a source, but to evade punishment for possessing classified military documents in breach not only of the law but of a plea bargain agreement with the Shin Bet.
Kamm served in the IDF from 2005 to 2007 as a secretary in the office of the commander of Central Command. In the weeks before her release from service, she copied about 2,000 highly classified IDF documents onto two CDs and uploaded them to her home computer. After her release, she shopped the documents around to various military reporters and eventually gave them to Blau. The documents she stole included top-secret information about IDF orders of battle, units, armaments and operational orders.
Blau remains in London, while Kamm is under house arrest and charged with aggravated espionage. She faces a life sentence if found guilty.
April 15 Haaretz article:
Jerusalem Post Opinion Article:
Police Raid Anat Kamm’s Apartment: