Israel convicts journalist for disclosing assassinations
Published Thursday, July 5, 2012
An Israeli journalist who drew on leaked army documents to report the deliberate assassinations of Palestinian leaders was convicted on Thursday, but spared jail time in a plea bargain.
Uri Blau of Haaretz newspaper will do four months community service after confessing to reduced charges of possessing classified information without authorization but "with no intent to harm national security," Israel's State Attorney's Office said in a statement.
Prosecutors had earlier stated Blau could face more serious espionage charges. That provoked protests from journalists who argued Israel's reputation for media freedom was at stake.
Blau reported in 2008 that top army officers in the occupied West Bank had given shoot-to-kill orders to troops chasing Palestinian gunmen.
The front-page story was based on documents given to Blau by former army conscript Anat Kamm, who had downloaded them, and hundreds of others, from her computer while a clerk with the military's high command.
Kamm was jailed for four and a half years in October under a separate plea bargain.
Human rights groups have criticized Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders since the early days of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.
Haaretz said charging Blau was "unfortunate and sets a precedent in terms of its ramifications on the freedom of press in Israel, and especially on the ability to cover the security apparatus." Other Israeli journalists echoed the condemnation.
Blau's plea bargain is subject to formal approval by Tel Aviv District Court.
A recent Reporters Without Borders study ranked Israel 92nd out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom, behind countries such as Congo, Kenya and Serbia.