A group of around 10 Israeli crime reporters walked out of an event held at Tel Aviv Police Headquarters on Wednesday, to protest what they say has been police mismanagement of their relationship with the press, which has kept them from reporting on issues of public importance.

Police chief Insp.-Gen.Yohanan Danino took to the stage in front of around 300 police officers, moments after three young children on stage wearing police hats said, “Who is more attractive and brave than the police chief?” As the children cleared the stage and Danino took to the podium, the reporters rose from their seats and walked out in single file.

At the core of the complaint is what reporters say is a failure and/or refusal by the national police spokesman’s branch to brief them on issues of public importance, in particular recent cases such as the investigation of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the Bayit Yehudi vote-buying scandal, the investigation of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto and the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Megiddo Prison last week. Their contention is that the use of sweeping gag orders and the refusal to brief the press on these cases strips the public of knowledge of stories significant to them.

As one reporter noted, “I’m sick of hearing from the political reporters about a police investigation against this politician or another.”

Police contend that they do not release details about ongoing investigations in order to protect the privacy and reputations of public figures. The reporters, on the other hand, contend that on a daily basis there are dozens of reports sent out by police spokesmen about arrests and investigations of private citizens, who are not afforded the same privacy considerations as public figures.

The walkout was greeted with anger by Danino’s spokeswoman Sigal Toledano, who said she viewed it as a declaration of war of sorts by the reporters. The reporters, for their part, said they were trying to send a message about public responsibility.

In a communiqué sent out to an internal list of reporters via the WhatsApp messaging system, they wrote that “the lack of professionalism of officials from the top down in the national spokesman’s office places Israeli reporters in a problematic situation – because they cannot get answers about issues of importance to Israeli citizens.”

The statement continued: “Over the past week we’ve been flooded by pictures of the police chief with kids dressed up on Purim, or the children of police in their Purim costumes. We were asked by police to publish them in the media. This is not why we chose this profession. It is time to do something and report to the citizens of Israel about the important issues taking place in this country.”

A meeting planned between Danino and reporters that was meant to be held at 3 p.m. was canceled by the police chief after the walkout took place.

Thus far, the reporters have vowed to no longer write about Danino or the national police branch as much as possible, and to only deal with the regional districts’ spokesmen.

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