Israeli Ministers to Mull Bill That Would Curtail Use of Gag Orders

Israeli courts would be unable to suppress information indefinitely if it has already been leaked to the foreign press or Internet.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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A bill that would prevent the widespread use of gag orders is to be discussed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. The proposal would compel courts to reconsider concealing information from the public if that information has already been publicized on the Internet or by the foreign press.

According to the bill, submitted by Labor MKs Nachman Shai and Merav Michaeli, the courts will be allowed to prevent publication of criminal or security affairs for only seven days, after which they will be allowed to extend the order only after holding a discussion in the presence of representatives of the Israel Press Council and any other public body approved by the Justice Minister.

The revolutionary proposal also obliges the courts to hold a repeat discussion on enforcing a gag order one day after the information has been leaked to the foreign press or the Internet.

On Wednesday, Shai harshly criticized the ease with which judges issue gag orders, even in cases in which the public can find out all the details of the affair through the Internet. “Gag orders have become a farce in too many cases,” said Shai. “We need to refresh our thinking on this issue. We can’t bury our heads in the sand," he said, adding that "nowadays information reaches the Internet immediately and Israeli citizens are easily exposed to foreign press releases. Therefore, a gag order on information published in the foreign press should be kept in place only when there are special considerations.”

The investigation of singer Eyal Golan on suspicion of having sex with underage girls, the arrest of soldier Anat Kam for leaking classified military information and the prison suicide of imprisoned Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier, were all widely reported by the foreign media and Internet outlets, but concealed from the Israeli public using gag orders.

Ben Zygier in his IDF uniform.Credit: SMH Website
Anat Kam in court for a failed appeal over terms of her arrest, May 16, 2010Credit: Moti Kimche
Singer Eyal Golan at a taping of his show, 'Eyal Golan Is Calling You.' Credit: Daniel Bar-On