Israel’s attorney general has decided to put a journalist on trial over secret military documents he received from a former soldier who is now in prison for spying, the justice ministry said on Wednesday.
“In the near future charges will be filed against (the journalist Uri) Blau for the offence of possession of secret information by an unauthorised person” without intending to harm state security, the ministry said in a statement.
Blau used some of the documents 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.
The Israeli journalist later handed over to security agents the classified documents in his possession.
The Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday that if convicted Blau could face up to seven years in prison.
“It is a worrying sign for freedom of the press in Israel,” it said in a statement. “We repeat our request for the charges against Uri Blau to be dropped.”
The justice ministry said that in reaching its decision it was obliged to weigh media freedom against the potential danger of what it said were 1,800 documents passed to Blau by Anat Kam.
“These documents were held by Blau in his personal laptop computer, and in other places which he chose, without any means of control or protection,” it said.
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 Palestinian territories.