The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court approved on Monday Haaretz journalist Uri Blau's plea bargain, which sentenced him to four months community service on Monday.
Blau will carry out his community service in Tel Aviv's Reuth Medical Center.
Judge Ido Druyan said that the state must balance between protecting National security and preserving freedom of the press. "There cannot be a doubt that when national security is equated with freedom of the press and the people's right to know, as unalienable rights, it is national security that will come on top, if only for the simple reason that without a safe existence of the state and its citizens there would be no press or public. Despite this, this is not how the law is officiated: even when a very important value is discussed, even if it is the most important value it must be balanced with other conflicting values."
Druyan said that the material Blau dealt with was of the highest public importance for the public debate on the most troubling of subjects in the Israeli public sphere. "It is the supreme importance of the security forces and their modus operandi that gives special urgency and importance to their being an active topic of public and political debate in Israel." The judge stressed that the operation of free investigative journalism is one of the basis of democracy: "without which democracy is flawed and fundamentally lacking…with no real information, the public is exposed to the destructive influence of wild demagogy, malicious lies, and willful incitement."
One of Blau's legal representatives Jack Hen said, "This is a precedent-setting prosecution of a journalist for doing his job, according to which the public's right to know and freedom of the press were seriously damaged by the decision to put a journalist on trial for these reasons."
He said that the decision to put Blau on trial was not easy, and that an indictment should not have been served against him. Hen added that all of Blau's articles had been approved by Israel's military censor.
He repeated that, to his knowledge, no journalist – or anyone for that matter – had been put on trial for possession of classified documents with no related offenses.
Blau asked to speak during the trial, and told the judge that the case had taken over his life: "The fact that I have been convicted of a criminal offense and the fact that Anat Kamm is serving a harsh punishment are things that I did not wish for."
In his words, it is his duty as a journalist to keep the public informed. "This is the meaning of free press in a democratic country, and this is how I see my role as a journalist," he said.
The State Prosecutor's Office reached a plea bargain with Blau, after he was accused of possessing classified Israel Defense Forces documents earlier this month. The accusations came a little over a month after the state had announced its intention to indict him.
As part of the plea bargain deal, Blau agreed to admit to holding secret intelligence, without intent to harm national security.
The deal was reached between representatives of the Tel Aviv district of the State Prosecutor's Office, Ariela Segal and Hadas Fuhrer-Gafni, and Haaretz legal representatives Mibi Mozer and Jack Hen.
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