Israel’s love-hate relationship with freedom of the press took another turn for the worse today, with the announcement by the Attorney General that the government is going to prosecute Haaretz reporter Uri Blau for “possession of state secrets.”
Blau obtained “secret” documents from whistleblower Anat Kamm and wrote several stories about illegal actions by the Israeli military, including a plot to intentionally kill people to avoid the legal consequences of arresting them.
The situation is extremely complex, because Israel has nothing even close to resembling a free press, and Blau’s articles had to be cleared by the official military censor before release, and they all were. The reporter fled to London in early 2010 to avoid capture, but returned later in the year after a promise that he was only wanted for questioning related to Kamm’s case. Kamm was captured in 2009, but that fact was kept secret by the military for several months. She was eventually sentenced to four and a half years of prison time for leaking the documents.
Blau was thought to be off the hook, especially since all of his articles were cleared by the censors first. Now it looks like the author could face seven years in prison for writing the articles, on the grounds that they contained state secrets that he wasn’t supposed to know about, suggesting that all journalists in Israel will have to remain aware that just because their article isn’t banned doesn’t mean it isn’t illegal.