The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday upheld a plea bargain deal, sentencing
Ha’aretz journalist Uri Blau to four months of community service for obtaining
around 1,800 classified IDF documents on a portable USB storage
On July 24, Blau pleaded guilty to possessing classified
information without intent to harm state security, after citing classified IDF
documents stolen by former soldier Anat Kamm in reports accusing the IDF of
defying a High Court ruling against targeted killings.
As part of a plea
bargain reached earlier in July, Blau agreed to plead guilty in return for a
mere four-month sentence, which could be served through community
At the sentencing hearing, the court noted that the case was one
of first impressions in terms of convicting a senior journalist of a crime
associated with violating state security.
The court said it found itself
in a difficult situation as the case involved important and competing values:
state security and freedom of speech and the press.
But in the end, the
court concluded that – especially in this case – state security trumped the
rights and obligations of journalists, as without state security there would be
no state and no newspapers in the first place.
The ruling said that
courts generally defer to the state when it comes to plea bargains and that the
state had weighed the appropriate considerations in this case.
who said the sentence should be more stringent, as in the case of Anat Kamm, the
court said Blau’s case was different because Kamm created a greater problem and
had a higher duty as a soldier. Also, Kamm had pursued Blau, not the other way
To those for whom the sentence was too strict and who said it
would discourage freedom of the press, the court noted that the sentence was
short and being served by community service. It was also noteworthy that there
is no provision for an additional conditional prison sentence for future
violations, which usually is part of any deal.
Kamm, who stole the
documents during her military service, is serving a four and a half year prison
term following her conviction in February – also under a plea bargain – in which
she pleaded guilty to gathering and storing classified military documents and
transferring them to Blau.
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.