Israel to lift months-long gag order over security case
State to reportedly lift media ban after worldwide outlets already released details of the affair.
Israel's defense establishment had at last decided to withdraw its support of a months-long blanket gag order on a security-related affair, Haaretz learned Wednesday, with the names of those involved in the case and the charges leveled against them to be possibly released as soon as Thursday.
Representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet and the State Prosecutor's Office are expected to arrive at Tel Aviv's district court Thursday and officially ask for the partial removal of the gag order, in place for the last three-and-a-half months.
Despite the court-imposed gag order, Israeli blogs and Web sites, along with foreign media outlets not subject to Israeli law, have been discussing the affair in detail over the past several weeks.
Haaretz appealed the court in an effort to have the gag order removed a month ago.
The reversal in position reportedly came about following messages from the Supreme Court to the State Prosecutor's Office and the presiding judge, Ze'ev Hammer, allegedly hinting at the peculiar situation created, in which Israeli media was banned from publishing the story, while worldwide outlets already released most of its details.
On Tuesday, Press Council President Dalia Dorner lashed out against a gag order barring the Israeli media from reporting on a legal case related to media and security, saying the Press Council may join the appeal against the order.
"If the entire world knows about it, issuing a gag order is baseless," said Dorner, a former Supreme Court justice. "We are a democratic state and when the regime makes a decision that a citizen or a newspaper doesn't like, there are ways to fight it."
When asked what influence she though foreign publication should have on a gag order, Dorner was unequivocal.
"Gag orders impinge on the freedom of the press, and this is allowed if publication is highly likely to cause grave damage to state security. But if the whole world knows, this alone constitutes a reason to withdraw the injunction," she said.
Dorner also said the Press Council will probably join an appeal against the gag order, which Channel 10 is preparing to submit on Wednesday. A preliminary request to cancel the order was rejected by the court.
"To the best of my knowledge, there are intentions to bring the affair and the gag order before the Supreme Court, and I have been asked to look into having the Press Council join the motion," Dorner said. "The case is clear and just, and I believe that after we examine the issue we'll join the appeal."
Over the past few days, the Israeli media began publishing indirect information about the affair behind the gag order, including keywords that would help them find more information by searching the Web.
These publications prompted Dorner to attack the gag order during an interview with Army Radio yesterday.
"This is an extreme case and I certainly find it regrettable," she said, before urging the media to use higher legal instances to have the gag order removed. "There are means to fight such orders, and they should be fought," said Dorner. "As for the media publishing whatever it is allowed to publish, this is all very well and good, but the media can do more and go all the way to the Supreme Court."
Dorner also said that the gag order persisting despite open discussions in global media outlets "seems ridiculous."
"I suppose the court has good reasons, but it doesn't mean the reasons are appropriate and right," she said. "We can and we should fight them."