Israel Police rescind order demanding media footage from Bedouin protest
Police withdraw original request just hours before hearing on the matter, which sparked outrage from Haaretz and Israel's two biggest news networks.
Israel Police on Tuesday rescinded an order calling on journalists to turn over all photographs taken at a demonstration against the state's plan to resettle 30,000 Negev Bedouin, saying it was unnecessary.
The decision to repeal the directive comes just one day after it was issued and shortly before a hearing meant to discuss it.
Just hours before a hearing about the order, scheduled for 4 P.M. local time, police officials withdrew their original request, saying their investigation no longer required the photographs. "We don’t need the order at present," said a police spokeswoman, adding, "we will get the evidence another way."
"We had hoped that the order would help us gather evidence, but we collected evidence from other images and at this stage don’t need to issue orders."
Be'er Sheva Court Judge Sarah Habib acceded to the police request, canceling the order, while also criticizing the police's conduct. "I find the plaintiff's conduct strange," she wrote, saying that when the order was issued she was presented with investigative materials and classified documents detailing its necessity.
A spokesman for the police investigations division said that after consultations and an in-depth examination of the circumstances, a decision was made to cancel the sweeping order that was approved by the court.
Police had provided no explanation for the unusual order, but they have been investigating violent clashes between stone-throwing demonstrators and police, who employed stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons during the protests against the Prawer-Begin plan.
The "day of rage" demonstrations on Saturday ended with 34 protesters arrested and 15 officers wounded.
Israel Police communicated the order, which was approved by Be’er Sheva court Judge Habib, directly to photographers via a text message.
"All media in the State of Israel are to hand over any documentation of the riots at Hura Junction and the surroundings on November 30, 2013,” the message said.
Haaretz and Israel's two biggest news networks, Channel 10 and Channel 2, said they would challenge the order in court.
Arik Bachar, the secretary general of the Israel Press Council, said on Monday that his organization had successfully intervened in two similar cases in recent years.
“The High Court of Justice has already decided that turning to a journalist is only the last resort, and that when it comes to decisions of this kind [the police] shouldn’t be trigger happy,” said Bachar. “The Press Council will keep an eye open and intervene on the issue as necessary. In any case, we recommend that journalists who received such an order file an objection."