Haaretz journalist Uri Blau to face charges over leaks of West Bank military operation


An Israeli journalist is to be indicted for possession of classified Israel Defence Forces (IDF) documents in a decision strongly criticised yesterday by the head of the country's Press Council.

Israel's Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, announced yesterday that Uri Blau, a reporter for the liberal daily Haaretz, would be charged with unauthorised possession of state secrets. The charge carries a maximum jail sentence of seven years.

A 2008 story by Mr Blau based on leaked documents charged that one or two Islamic Jihad militants had been targeted for assassination in Jenin in apparent violation of a Supreme Court ruling heavily restricting the circumstances in which killings, as opposed to arrests, were permissible.

The State Prosecutor's Office said Mr Blau had held thousands of military and top-secret documents which were stolen from the IDF by Anat Kamm, a former Israeli soldier who was convicted in February of collecting and passing on classified information. Ms Kamm was sentenced to four years in jail.

Haaretz said yesterday that the decision "is 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."

Otniel Schneller, a member of the Knesset for the Kadima party, said Mr Blau had "endangered Israel's security not less, and perhaps even more, than the actions of Anat Kamm." But Judge Dalia Dorner, head of Israel's Press Council, said: "Many journalists that deal with these issues hold these kinds of documents, and this kind of a decision has a chilling effect."

In March 2010, The Independent was the first newspaper to test an unusual gagging order covering Ms Kamm's secret house arrest in connection with the charges by publishing her name.