After nearly 73 years of independence, Israel is still very much a fledgling democracy.Yes, there are equal rights for citizens and yes, we in the press are able to openly criticize the government that is elected by the people. But, every once in a while, Israel shows that it still does not understand what it means to have freedom of the press and what it truly means to be a democracy with transparency and clear checks and balances.An example of this was given on Thursday when Israel and Syria finalized a prisoner swap with Russian mediation. Israel got back a woman – reportedly haredi and in her twenties – who had crossed into Syria earlier this month near Mount Hermon. Syria, in exchange, received two shepherds back who had crossed into Israel illegally and also got Israel to commute the sentence of a Druze woman from the Golan Heights. Within a day though, Israeli media reported that the deal had included a secret clause. The reports, though, could not reveal what the clause included, although hints were coming from various directions that Israel had agreed to either supply or purchase coronavirus vaccines for Syria. The reason the clause could not be published remains a mystery. All we know is that its publication has been banned by the Military Censor.The whole story – of the woman crossing into Syria and the cabinet meeting on Tuesday – was shrouded under strict censorship by the Military Censor only to see the information leaked a day later by the Syrian press. This included even after she had returned to Israel late Thursday night. Also then, no one in an official capacity said anything.In other words, instead of Israelis getting their information from a reliable source they were left having to rely on media run by a brutal dictator in Damascus.The problems with this are many. Firstly, when the cabinet meets to vote on a prisoner swap, the Israeli people have the right to know about it. It should also get to know the entire deal and not have to rely on foreign reports as to what its government is doing.Does it make sense to release prisoners for a woman who willingly crossed the border and to also buy or supply hundreds of thousands of vaccines to an enemy state? Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. It is hard to say since we don’t know the full details. The woman had apparently tried crossing into the Gaza Strip a few years ago and was stopped by soldiers, making it clear that this was not some innocent mistake.The deal reached with Syria makes us wonder about Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israeli, and Hisham al-Sayed, a Bedouin Israeli, who are both held in Gaza. Mengistu has been in Gaza since 2014; al-Sayed since 2015.Why has a similar deal not been reached to secure their release? Has the government tried and if not, why not?While it is hard to pass judgment on a deal whose clauses remain classified, we reject the way the government has used the Military Censor.In a democracy, the people are the sovereign power and they have the right to know what decisions their government is making and whether the prices it decides to pay make sense.This, of course, needs to be balanced with national security. The public does not need to know everything and sometimes, if it does, lives can be at risk.We applaud the government for going to great lengths to secure the release of an Israeli citizen. However, imagine that the government had activated the censor to ban publication of the details of the prisoner swap that saw 1,500 Palestinian terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Schalit. Would that have been right? The answer is obviously no, but that is because we knew about the price that was being paid. This is exactly why oversight is needed – to ensure that the government does not exaggerate and safeguards the interests of the people it was elected to serve.Banning details of a deal from publication when the details are anyhow leaked achieves only one thing – the erosion of trust in the government.