2 Arabs who broke IDF censorship jailed

East J'lem residents illegally broadcast troops' movements to Iran's Al-Alam TV during Cast Lead.

idf reservists enter gaza 248 88 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Office [file])
idf reservists enter gaza 248 88
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Office [file])
Two journalists were sentenced to two months in jail on Sunday by a Jerusalem court for broadcasting on an Iranian TV station that the IDF's ground operation in Gaza this winter had begun, hours before the information was cleared by the military censor. Hadir Shaheen, 34, and Muhammad Sarhan, 26, were reporting from the Israeli side of the Gaza border on January 3, when they noticed IDF soldiers preparing to enter the Hamas-controlled territory, the indictment states. The two men, residents of east Jerusalem who work for the Ramallah-based PMCC production company, began a live broadcast on Iran's Al-Alam Arabic-language satellite TV channel detailing the soldiers' moves, even though they knew that the information had not been cleared with the censor and that it could harm the operation, the charge sheet relates. The detailed reports were then broadcast in Iran, as well as on Arab satellite stations, including ones available in the Gaza Strip. The state charged that the two men had leaked the information with the full knowledge that it could be seen by viewers in the Gaza Strip - including Hamas - and endanger the safety of the soldiers. As part of a plea bargain agreement, the journalists were charged with transferring information to the enemy by negligence. The judges said in their sentencing that only rarely did censorship violations end up in court, but that this case was unique due to its critical timing. "When there is a clear and severe violation of rules during a critical time like war, there is a great importance to the consideration of deterrence because the violation caused grave danger," the Jerusalem District Court's three-judge panel wrote. The journalists' attorneys said on Sunday that that they planned to appeal the "harsh" sentence to the Supreme Court, noting that no one had been jailed over such a crime. The journalists have maintained that they did not intend to cause any harm, and that they were broadcasting content that was available on other media outlets at the time. The prison sentence has been frozen pending their appeal. The reporters were also given an 18-month suspended sentence. If upheld, the sentence will be reduced by the 10 days the pair were under arrest in January.