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Officials at Barzilai Medical Center were critical yesterday of instructions issued by the Health Ministry on how to deal with the media.

The Health Ministry ordered the immediate removal of the live feed on the hospital's Web site of the removal of the ancient graves from the compound, and forbade any interviews by any of the staff, including the doctors and the administration, to the media on the subject of the graves.

A senior source at the hospital said that "we are being silenced because they are not interested in a public debate on the issue."

The Health Ministry issued a statement in response that "the decision to show the evacuation of the graves at the hospital compound is unclear. The role of the hospital Web site is to offer medical information and not to serve a political interest.

"In matters of professional medical issues the hospital employees are entitled to offer interviews, but on certain issues they must coordinate with the Health Ministry, as was done in the past in the case of swine flu, and with the current issue.

"We must not forget that Barzilai Medical Center is a state hospital," it said.

(Dan Even)