Last updated: 6 July, 2012

Watchdog vexed with Israeli journalist plea bargain

Reporters Without Borders said on Friday it had “deep reservations” about a plea bargain in which Israeli journalist Uri Blau will serve four months’ community service for possessing secret military documents.

“While we are relieved that Blau will avoid a prison sentence that could have been as much as seven years… this plea bargain is highly questionable and we reiterate our call for the withdrawal of all the charges against Blau,” the Paris-based watchdog said.

“Four months of community service… still constitutes a serious violation of media freedom and sends a warning to journalists. They now know they will be taking a risk if they base a story on confidential documents,” a statement said.

It added that “the excessive secrecy of the Israeli military and security apparatus makes proper reporting impossible without use of classified documents.”

Prosecutors on Thursday filed charges against an Israeli journalist “for the offence of possession of secret information without intending to harm state security.”

The justice ministry said the indictment was part of a bargain in which Blau would enter a guilty plea in exchange for a four-month jail term which could be commuted to community service, subject to the approval of community service officials.

The statement said former soldier Anat Kam had passed 1,800 documents to Blau.

He used some of them in a 2008 article in the left-leaning Tel Aviv daily Haaretz, which said troops had been ordered to carry out targeted killings of Palestinian militants in violation of a supreme court order.

Blau later handed over to security agents the classified documents in his possession.

Kam was sentenced in October to four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to leaking the documents.

She has said her actions were ideologically motivated and that she wanted to expose the army’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.