Israeli Journalist to Be Charged with Possession of Classified Military Documents
IPI Reiterates Firm Support for Uri Blau
By: Scott Griffen, IPI Associate
VIENNA, May 30, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today reiterated its firm support for Israeli journalist Uri Blau, whose indictment on charges of possessing classified military documents was announced by the country’s attorney general this morning.
Blau, an investigative reporter with Haaretz, is accused of having been in possession of thousands of secret Israeli Defense Force documents passed on to him by a former Israeli solider, Anat Kamm. Kamm was sentenced in Feb. 2011 to four-and-a-half years in prison for unauthorised distribution of classified material.
Prosecutors contend Blau illegally used the documents as sources for a series of articles in Haaretz alleging that the Israeli military had breached a court order regarding assassinations in the West Bank.
In a statement explaining its decision to formally indict Blau, the Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office insisted that it had taken all “relevant considerations”- including press freedom - into account before concluding “that this case is an extreme one in terms of the severity of Blau's actions," Haaretz reported on its website.
The statement added: “[Blau] "betrayed his duty – and later his commitment before the state – to cease possession of them [the documents] … and could have easily prevented harm to Israel's security without hurting his sources.”
IPI Acting Deputy Director Anthony Mills said today: “The planned indictment of Uri Blau would set a highly unfortunate precedent for press freedom and democracy is Israel. Journalists should have the right to use leaked documents as sources for their stories when these stories serve the public interest. We are highly concerned about the ramifications of this decision on the right of the Israeli public to be informed about the actions of state institutions. We urge Israeli authorities to reconsider and drop all charges against Mr. Blau immediately.”
In March, IPI’s 27-member Executive Board unanimously passed a resolution supporting Blau and rejecting calls for his prosecution.
The Association of Israel Journalists strongly condemned the Attorney General’s decision, noting “Every investigative journalist has in their possession files that were leaked from unofficial sources. We do not know another way to reveal instances of government corruption, injustices and offenses to the public, whose perpetrators would prefer to continue uninterrupted,” Haaretz reported.
Blau is being charged under Article 4: Espionage, Section 113(c) of the Israeli Penal Code, for illegally possessing classified documents but without the intention to harm the state. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.