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Media Defends Accused Spy; MK's Slam Haaretz Newspaper

MK Hasson calls to stop subscriptions to Haaretz; MK Ben-Ari says paper should be shut down. Media is curiously supportive of accused spy.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/8/2010, 11:30 PM / Last Update: 4/9/2010, 12:23 AM

MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) called on Minister of Interior Eli Yishai to use the powers vested in him by Israeli law to close down the Haaretz newspaper, whose reporter Uri Blau allegedly has possession of thousands of illegally obtained secret documents.

“Freedom of expression is the soul of democracy and indeed, the authority to shut down a newspaper is granted only in extreme and unusual cases,” Ben-Ari wrote, “but when Haaretz announces it will pay Uri Blau's expenses, and Haaretz is behind the initiative to keep Blau from returning to Israel – there is no alternative but to order the shutting down of Haaretz newspaper, if only for a short time, until Blau returns, shows up for interrogation and hands over all of the classified documents.”

MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), the former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) did not go as far as Ben-Ari but called upon Haaretz's subscribers to freeze their subscriptions until Blau gives back all of the documents obtained illegally "and is immediately fired.”

Why isn't Kam in jail?
Terror victims' advocacy group Almagor issued a statement in which it demanded that Anat Kam – who is accused of stealing the documents and giving them to Blau – be placed under full arrest until her trial ends, and not under house arrest as she is presently. It noted that in previous espionage cases, the individuals charged were always jailed during their trials.

Almagor further demanded that Kam be tried before a military court since she was a uniformed soldier when she carried out her alleged espionage. “Only a panel of judges that includes people of military background can fully appreciate the severity of her deeds, especially given the light atmosphere that is being created by her attorneys and those who side with them in some of the media,” the group said.  

Media supportive
Indeed, much of Israel's media coverage of the treason case show news outlets playing defense for the suspected journalist spies and placing the media's rights to information above the law, this despite IDF statements that Israeli lives might have been threatened by what was contained in the stolen documents.

For hours on end Thursday, Israel's online media outlets in English headlined the espionage case involving two journalists, one of whom was a soldier at the time, in a way that appeared to favor the suspects. In the afternoon and evening, the top stories in the Ynetnews, JPost and Haaretz websites curiously focused on the accused spy's version of the affair, depicting her as more of a victim than a villain.

Ynetnews's top headline was “'Case threatens democracy'” – actually an abbreviated version of a quote from Kam's defense lawyer. JPost also gave prominence to the defense lawyer's version, with the headline “Former IDF soldier's lawyer: Case damaging to democracy.” The English-language version of Haaretz, a suspected culprit in the affair, quoted the same attorney's claim that his client, who is accused of wilfully copying thousands of IDF classified documents on to her own computer,  had been “made a scapegoat” in its headline.

Channel 2's central evening newscast featured numerous sound bites from another one of Kam's lawyers, high-profile attorney Avigdor Feldman, and a sympathetic interview with Kam's mother. Anchorwoman Yonit Levy spoke with Guy Peleg, the channel's reporter on legal affairs, and suggested that the accusation of espionage was "too harsh."  

Ynet in Hebrew provided a long video report on a demonstration by about a dozen radical leftists in Tel Aviv who accused the IDF of crimes and praised Kam.

By evening, Haaretz in Hebrew had moved the story that caused shockwaves throughout Israel down to the number five position, giving it less importance than a story about the Obamas' intention to appear on American Idol.

YnetNews: Threat to Democracy Instead of Threat to Israel's Security

 

Haaretz Top Headline Quoted the Lawyer: She's a Scapegoat