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Middle East
Israel lifts whistleblower gag
Israeli press allowed to report on Anat Kamm's house arrest for leaking military documents.
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2010 16:59 GMT

Officials said Kamm tried to harm national security, but her lawyer said her motive was moral [AFP]
 

Israel has lifted censorship on reports that a former soldier is under house arrest for leaking more than 2,000 classified military documents to an Israeli newspaper.

An Israeli court had ruled that local media could not report Anat Kamm's detention since December for allegedly taking the documents when on mandatory military service between 2007-9.

However, information concerning the 23-year-old's arrest had been reported in international newspapers and websites over the past couple of weeks prompting the easing of the ban on Thursday, subsequently raising discontent over press freedom in Israel.

Authorities have accused Kamm of giving the copied documents to a journalist at the Haaretz newspaper, which subsequently published information in 2008 that a top army officer authorised the assassination of Palestinian fighters in violation of a Supreme Court ruling.

About 700 of the documents were classified as "top secret".

Moral cause

Kamm, now a journalist, is accused of intending to harm national security by leaking the information, although this is denied by her spokesman who said that Kamm's motivation was moral.

"Anat is not a member of any political group and she does not want anyone to use her plight to further their cause," Nissim Dwek, the spokesman, told Israel's Channel 10 TV.

"State security has not been harmed and there was no intent to harm state security," Dwek said.

Kamm could face up to life in prison if convicted of espionage.

The Justice Ministry said that the gag order was necessary in order that the documents could be recovered. Yet, they added they were only partially reclaimed as Uri Blau, the Haaretz journalist who received the material, had left the country.

That journalist was assigned to London to avoid Israeli prosecutors, while the newspaper has said it is talking with legal authorities to allow for his return.

Press freedom

Gideon Levy, a journalist with Haaretz, told Al Jazeera: "Israel is now in turmoil over a women who couldn’t be silent.

Kamm, now a journalist, has been under
house arrest since December [AFP]

"I think that the main issue should be what were those secrets. One should look at the content of what was published, about who was assassinated. We don’t know enough at this stage," Levy said.

"We shouldn’t look at the messenger but the message.

"The penalty might be life. This is really out of proportion while we are dealing with a naive and good intentioned soldier who couldn’t keep silent about what she knew."

Critisism has been aimed at the gag order as international reports are easily available in Israel on the Internet, and many were referred to by local media regarding the case.

'Illegal killing'

Israel has used a policy of targeted killings against Palestinians since the second Palestinian intifada began in 2000 to prevent attacks.

Yet, the policy has been criticised as illegal, with the Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that such assassinations in the occupied West Bank must be limited to extraordinary cases.

The military in turn officially stopped the practice. But Haaretz reported a 2007 document including an order from Yair Naveh, a then commander, allowing firing upon three top Palestinian fighters even if they were not viewed as posing a clear and present danger.

Haaretz then quoted legal experts who said that the subsequent killing of one of the Palestinians was illegal, although Naveh, now retired, disputed this.

Kamm was serving in Naveh's office at the time of the memos.

Eitan Lehman, Kamm's lawyer, said that punishing her for this would be "a mortal blow to the state of Israel as a democratic country that believes in the freedom of the press.

"This trial is not a trial against Anat Kamm or against this journalistic source or another but rather against the entire Israeli press,'' Lehman said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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