Blogger Arrested for Revealing Official's Finances

Lori Shem-Tov was arrested, questioned and released with conditions for publishing personal financial information about Welfare Ministry director-general Yossi Silman.

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An Israel Police patrol car.
An Israel Police patrol car.
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

Police arrested and questioned blogger Lori Shem-Tov on Sunday for publishing personal financial information about Welfare Ministry director-general Yossi Silman.

She was released after several hours on condition that she not publish any information about Silman for 30 days and remove previous posts about him from her websites.

Shem-Tov says her posts about Silman are relevant to the public because they reflect on his job performance. The police disagree.

“One could ask whether the police always acts with such determination, or whether the plaintiff’s identity played a part,” said Association for Civil Rights in Israel attorney Avner Pinchuk. “The police seem to be inviting any citizen under such circumstances to file a complaint, which will be reviewed.”

Last month, Shem-Tov, a certified journalist, published official letters on her blog, exposing unpaid fines and loans accrued by Silman. In response, Silman complained to the police of harassment, theft of documents and invasion of privacy.

“Shem-Tov belongs to a fringe group that exploits the Internet to tarnish welfare authorities, taking advantage of private client information, which prevents any response,” said Silman. “It’s time to stand up to this handful of agitators.”

The Police arrested Shem-Tov on suspicion of violating privacy laws. Shem-Tov’s laptop computer was confiscated during her arrest, and she did not get a copy of the conditions of her release. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel described the police’s actions as unusual.

Shem-Tov’s lawyer said, “Silman should have gone through the civil courts, rather than using the police, which is an unacceptable practice.”

Shem-Tov is a well-known member of a group of parents who oppose social workers removing children from their homes. For the past few years, she has been waging an online information battle against welfare authorities.

Her websites are sharply critical of social workers. On one website, she wrote, “Social workers unjustifiably expropriate parents’ rights to raise their children without interference.” Another of her websites bills itself as a “mouthpiece for the calls of distress of mothers who are separated from their children due to the brutal intervention of social work agencies that often view single mothers as easy prey.”

Police sources say Shem-Tov was warned not to publish personal documents that infringe on Silman’s privacy, since they are not relevant to his official performance. “The police inform a suspect when a criminal offense has taken place, especially when she has not understood its severity. Publishing personal documentation, even of a public servant, is illegal. This is why she was detained, questioned and released with conditions,” a police source said, without describing the conditions.

Silman said he was not aware of such Internet-based slander before assuming his job. “This is a militant group that is trying to terrorize social workers in an attempt to sway decisions,” he said. “Many social workers are now distancing themselves from such cases.”

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