High Court gives media protection from Shin Bet corona surveillance

Press association chairman: A next step toward greater freedom of the press

Reading morning paper in Jerusalem (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Reading morning paper in Jerusalem
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
In one of a series of rulings late Sunday night, the High Court of Justice extended some protections to the media from the Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency) surveillance of coronavirus-infected persons.
Israel’s press association had petitioned that if the Shin Bet was given unlimited access to hack members of the media’s cell phones, they would compromise sources and undermine the most basic tenet of freedom of the press.
While the High Court did not issue a blanket prohibition protecting the media, it did say that members of the media can refuse to grant the Health Ministry access to their cell phones and appeal to the courts within 24 hours regarding any dispute.
In the meantime, and if the court rules in favor of the media member, that individual must take it upon themselves to inform all persons who they had contact with in the previous 14 days, including all their sources.
The basis of the High Court ruling is to balance protecting sources with ensuring that those who had physical contact with the reporter will self-quarantine and be aware of their personal exposure.
The press association said that it would produce a generic petition for members of the media to file so as to make it easier for individuals to defend their rights without having to hire a lawyer.
Press association chairman Yair Tarshiski said the High Court ruling “represents a fitting balance between the ambition of the state to advance policies to cope with the spread of the coronavirus and between the need to protect the confidentiality of sources in order to enable the media to perform its duties and serve the public.”
He added that the decision was part of a series of important decisions in which the High Court has reinforced freedom of the press.