3 Israeli journalists probed over travel to enemy states
Journalists visited Syria and Lebanon; Reporter to Haaretz: Police told me not to discuss investigation.
The Israel Police recently interrogated three Israeli journalists suspected of unauthorized travel to an enemy state, following visits to Syria and Lebanon.
The journalists were named as Ron Ben-Yishai, who reported for the "Yedioth Aharonot" newspaper from Syria; Tsur Shezaf, who wrote from Lebanon for the Israeli geographical magazine "Masa Aher" (A Different Voyage) and Lisa Goldman, who traveled twice to Lebanon for Channel 10 television. All of the visits took place in the last few months.
The travel by Israeli citizens to enemy states is considered a serious crime, even if they travel with foreign passports, due to the risk to their own lives and to the security of the state. The maximum penalty for the offense is four years in jail.
Alon Shahrabani, head of the economic and security branch of the International Crimes Investigations Unit, told Israel Radio that the journalists under investigation had not received the necessary permits from the prime minister and interior minister to make the journeys.
"They left on a personal mission to those states, and were investigated because we take a grave view of these actions, which place Israel under great risk, beyond the personal risk to their security," Shahrabani said.
He added that the evidence gathered in the investigation would be transferred to the State Prosecution.
Dalia Dorner, president of the Israel Press Council, said that "one of our missions is to preserve the freedom of the press - that is fundamental. The catch is that if a journalist commits a deed that is considered a legal offense, then of course we cannot get involved."
"I understand the security aspect - the law must be protected. Myself - when I read those articles, I thought they traveled with permits," Dorner said. "I hope that the matter stays within the limits of an investigation and a warning. Ultimately, these are good people who wanted to work on their journalistic craft."
Lisa Goldman confirmed to Haaretz on Thursday that she had been interrogated a month ago, but expressed great surprise that details of the investigation had emerged, given that the police had told her not to discuss it.
"I have no idea who leaked this story," she said. "I was completely flabbergasted when an Israeli reporter telephoned me today to inform me that the investigation had been announced on the radio. I have no idea who leaked it and very surprised that it's now been released. The police told me not to discuss the interrogation and I didn't. Therefore I am very surprised that the matter is now being exposed in the media."
Goldman said that she had been unaware that she had broken any laws, adding that, "if I had known there was no way I would have gone."
She told Haaretz that she had received congratulatory calls from "very senior members of the Prime Minister's Office" after her report from Lebanon had been broadcast on Channel 10 television, and it seems that they "were not aware of the law either."
Goldman said that she had been surprised by the fact that police were investigating the issue at all, given that a significant number of Israeli journalists had traveled to Arab states in recent years.
"I'm very surprised that the police have now opened an investigation against three Israeli reporters when there must be at least 10 who traveled to Arab countries using foreign passports over the last couple of years alone, and there are certainly many, many precedents over the last decade."