As news of Uri Blau’s plea bargain with the state broke Thursday, legal experts
said there should be a provision under the law for journalists who hold secret
documents as part of their work.
Prof. Emmanuel Gross, a criminal law
expert from the University of Haifa, told The Jerusalem Post that journalists
who held secret information for the purposes of their work, and who did not
intend to harm state security, needed immunity.
“Journalists cannot do
their job without that,” he added.
Under current law, journalists caught
holding classified documents cannot use as a defense that they needed the
material to do their work.
Gross said it “seemed illogical” that in a
democratic country, journalists – who are expected to report on defense issues –
could be prosecuted for holding the information required to write such
“The law needs to take that into account,” he said, adding that
stories involving the use of confidential information should of course pass
through the military censor.
Journalists should also be aware of the
limits of holding classified documents and how to keep them safely, Gross said,
adding that the censor was not enough.
However, Gross noted that Blau
held many more classified documents than he used to write his reports, had hung
on to those documents even after he told security agents that he had given them
all back and had stored them insecurely so that they posed a risk to state
Gross’s remarks echo comments made by MK Nachman Shai, a
journalist by profession, who has said that journalistic coverage, “especially
of the military, security and intelligence services, involves classified
information and even possession of documents.”
Meanwhile, Yoram Shachar,
a professor of criminal law at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, told the
Post on Thursday that in his opinion, the state should never have indicted
Shachar said that the law enforcement and defense establishment
regularly leak information to journalists. Blau, however, had not “played the
game,” he added.
“He moved away from the informal understanding [between
the defense establishment and the media] and all hell broke loose,” Shachar
Shachar also noted what he said was a large gap between the
“aggressive rhetoric” of the accusations against Blau and the plea
With regard to the four-month community service punishment
agreed in the plea bargain, Shachar said that similar deals, where the
punishment is far less (and sometimes even far greater) than that stipulated
under the Penal Code, occur frequently. “However, we will never know what Blau
offered [in the plea bargain],” he concluded.