The Haaretz newspaper and its reporter Uri Blau reached a settlement on Monday with Anat Kamm, on the recommendation of the Supreme Court.
Kamm leaked military documents to the newspaper in 2008 and was later sentenced for three years in jail for passing on classified information. She later sued Haaretz in 2013, alleging it had failed failed to exercise proper caution in protecting her as a source.
The settlement provides that Kamm’s lawsuit against Haaretz, alleging negligence in protecting her identity as a news source, is dismissed in its entirety, and that the Tel Aviv District Court judgment ordering the newspaper to pay compensation to her is to be vacated. As part of the settlement, Haaretz has agreed to pay 350,000 shekels ($100,900), a portion of her legal expenses.
The settlement has been approved by the Supreme Court.
The settlement agreement was presented to the court by Haaretz’s legal counsel, Tal Lieblich and Zeev Liond, and by Ilan Bombach, who represented Kamm, stating that a hearing was held this month at the Supreme Court at which the court “found difficulties in certain aspects of the decision that was the subject of the request to appeal [the district court decision accepting Kamm’s claims], and is proposing a resolution to the parties [a settlement].
“Investigative journalism can breathe with relief today,” Liond and Lieblich said. “It was highly important to vacate the district court’s judgment and its chilling, not to say freezing effect, which unreasonably expanded journalists’ duty of responsibility towards sources.
“It was not possible to allow a situation to remain in which a newspaper is perceived as a kind of insurance agency for sources,” they stated, “or that imposes a duty upon an investigative reporter to instruct or give tips to a source as how to behave in the event of a criminal investigation concerning him, which would border on a crime of obstruction.”
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“It is well and correct that the Glatt-Berkovich precedent remains unchanged,” they added, “which defines the legal relationship in Israel between a journalist and source. From the outset, Haaretz was prepared to assume some of Kamm’s legal expenses in the criminal proceeding against her, as an act of solidarity and due to the importance that the newspaper ascribes to the existence of journalistic sources,” Leonid and Lieblich said. “Therefore, the bottom line is that Kamm’s lawsuit was unnecessary and did not at all provide a benefit, if not the opposite.”
Bombach, Kamm’s lawyer, said: “I am pleased that the case is behind us. The agreement is fair and good for both sides.”
In September 2008, Kamm provided a USB flash drive to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau on which she had copied approximately 1,500 classified documents. She had access to the documents while serving in the army as a clerk in the office of the chief of the Central Command, Maj. Gen.Yair Naveh.
Blau published five articles, which had been approved by the military censor, based on the documents. One, which appeared in Haaretz in November 2008, revealed that the Israeli army had approved killing wanted Palestinians even when it had been possible to arrest them – in contravention of High Court of Justice directives.
After the article appeared, in addition to the documents classified as “top secret” that Kamm had given to Blau, the army, Shin Bet security service and the police opened an investigation to find who leaked the information. Kamm was questioned on suspicion of leaking the documents and was later convicted in a plea agreement of aggravated espionage and of providing secret information and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
She was released from prison in January 2014 after getting credit for a third of her sentence. Blau was ordered to return dozen of documents to the Shin Bet and was convicted in a plea agreement with possession of secret information. He was sentenced to four months’ community service.
In 2013, Kamm sued Haaretz and Blau demanding 2.6 million shekels in compensation. She alleged that negligent conduct on the part of the newspaper, Blau, publisher Amos Schocken and the former head of the news department and investigative reporting, Avi Zilberberg, had led to her being exposed as a source, causing her severe damage.
District Court Judge Rahamim Cohen found in her favor on her suit in 2018, ruling that Blau and Haaretz had violated their duty of care towards Kamm pertaining to relations between a source and journalist.