WikiLeaks newspaper fronts Reuters 29/11/2010
Newspaper fronts reporting on the documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks are seen in New York, November 29, 2010. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

The cabinet will decide Sunday morning whether the coalition will approve a bill anchoring immunity for journalists into law. The bill was proposed by MK Nachman Shai and is mostly backed by MKs who were journalists themselves in the past: Shelly Yachimovich, Daniel Ben Simon and Uri Orbach.

One of the purposes of the bill is to prevent the indictment of journalists who possess secret documents as part of their work.

The ministerial committee on legislation is due to decide where the government stands on the bill, which has already received the support of the Israel Press Association.

Under the bill, a court would not be able to force a journalist to reveal documents in their possession in order to identify their sources. The court would be able to order the journalist to turn over documents if they help prevent a crime, and in cases when it is not possible to find other evidence through "reasonable efforts."

"The Israel Press Association supports the proposal for anchoring journalists' immunity in law," a statement read. "The immunity of media sources has only been protected to date in [court] rulings. In view of the importance of the matter to journalistic freedom, it is appropriate for this to be enshrined in legislation, and this is the reason that the Press Association supports the initiative."

At a meeting several days ago, a number of Press Association members announced that "a journalist who possesses documents in order to do his work as a journalist must not be put on trial."

According to the details accompanying the bill, "information that journalists receive from classified sources are essential to public discourse in a democracy. It is a central tool in exposing social flaws, corruption and shortfalls in the decision-making processes of the governing authorities."