Press Council reaches deal with police over gag orders

The Israel Press Council has announced that it has reached an “agreement in principle” with the Israel Police over a new form of cooperation between the media and police over controversial publication restrictions regarding police investigations.
Currently, police can obtain a wide-reaching gag order, but the IPC says that under the new plan, police will be able to ask for a week-long ban at most, and the IPC will be notified in time to send a representative to a court session held to discuss the ban’s extension, and argue against extending the restriction if it is felt to be unjustified.
The Israel Police said it was not aware of the agreement. The IPC is a voluntary organization representing journalists and editors.
“This did not come out of the blue – it came after two years of work by a committee made up of IPC representatives and police, set up by the police commissioner himself,” IPC spokesman Arik Bachar said Wednesday. “The agreement was reached between Cmdr. Yoav Saglovitch [head of the Israel Police Investigations Branch] and [IPC president and former] justice Dalia Dorner,” Bachar added.
“The idea is to create a forum. Police are now seeking the approval of the attorney-general for the arrangement,” he said.
The police’s heavy use of media gag orders has drawn fierce criticisms from media outlets, which claim the public’s right to free information should trump secrecy, and often accuse police of hiding behind the bans to control information.
The police, for its part, says the restrictions are vital to prevent leaks of information that could be fatal to sensitive probes, alert criminals, and allow suspects to pervert the course of investigations.