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Journalist Blau gets 4 months community service
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
03/09/2012
'Haaretz' reporter sentenced for aggravated espionage, after pleading guilty to obtaining classified information from Anat Kamm.
 
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 device.

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 service.

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.

To those 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 around.

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.
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