Haaretz Journalist Uri Blau Found Guilty Under Plea Bargain of Holding Secret IDF Info

Under the deal, Blau will serve 4 months of community service; Blau's attorney: 'This is a precedent-setting prosecution of a journalist for doing his job.'

Haaretz journalist Uri Blau was convicted under a plea bargain on Tuesday of possessing classified information. The two sides agreed on four months of community service.

One of Blau's legal representatives Jack Hen said, "This is a precedent-setting prosecution of a journalist for doing his job, according to which the public's right to know and freedom of the press were seriously damaged by the decision to put a journalist on trial for these reasons."

He said that the decision to put Blau on trial was not easy, and that an indictment should not have been served against him. Hen added that all of Blau's articles had been approved by Israel's military censor.

He repeated that, to his knowledge, no journalist – or anyone for that matter – had been put on trial for possession of classified documents with no related offenses.

Blau asked to speak during the trial, and told the judge that the case had taken over his life: "The fact that I have been convicted of a criminal offense and the fact that Anat Kamm is serving a harsh punishment are things that I did not wish for."

In his words, it is his duty as a journalist to keep the public informed. "This is the meaning of free press in a democratic country, and this is how I see my role as a journalist," he said.

The State Prosecutor's Office reached a plea bargain with Blau, after he was accused of possessing classified Israel Defense Forces documents earlier this month. The accusations came a little over a month after the state had announced its intention to indict him.

As part of the plea bargain deal, Blau agreed to admit to holding secret intelligence, without intent to harm national security.

The deal was reached between representatives of the Tel Aviv district of the State Prosecutor's Office, Ariela Segal and Hadas Fuhrer-Gafni, and Haaretz legal representatives Mibi Mozer and Jack Hen.

Uri Blau at court, September 3, 2012.
Hadar Cohen