TV Show Refuses Tax Probe’s Demand for Medical Tourism Material

Inappropriate that enforcement body should rely on journalistic material instead of conducting its own investigation, says Uvda investigative program.

The Tax Authority is demanding that investigative television program Uvda (Fact) hand over raw materials from its investigation into medical tourism, but the journalists are refusing, citing the need to protect their sources.

Two Tax Authority employees showed up at the offices of Uvda in Tel Aviv yesterday with an order demanding all raw material from the investigation.

The investigation, which aired a month and a half ago, led both the Tax Authority and the police to launch their own investigations.

The order, which was approved by the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court, instructs the staff of Uvda to give the tax inspectors full copies of all material relevant to the tax investigation, including all material from the program before editing.

But Uvda refused to obey the order, stating that it would bring the matter to court, as the order allows for.

“This order harms journalistic freedom of operation,” stated Uvda. “There’s a clear concern that this could harm the [principle of journalists’ immunity from having to reveal the identity of sources].”

“Furthermore, in principle it’s inappropriate that an enforcement body should rely on journalistic material instead of conducting its own investigation. A journalist’s work is to publish articles and investigations, and the authorities’ job is to conduct their own checks, to the extent they deem necessary,” it stated.

The investigative report focused on medical tourism at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. As part of the investigation, a reporter presented herself as an agent for medical tourists. Three senior surgeons requested thousands of dollars in payments, beyond what the hospital itself charges medical tourists. The payment to the hospital is supposed to cover doctors’ wages.

The Tax Authority declined to respond.

Moti Milrod