Israel's Military Censor Asks to Join Emergency Services' WhatsApp Groups

Police, emergency services are using WhatsApp groups to disseminate information to journalists.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
A WhatsApp page is seen on Facebook on a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone.
A WhatsApp page is seen on Facebook on a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone.Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Last month, the military censor sent an email to a number of emergency services with a request to join the WhatsApp groups they use to disseminate information to journalists.

The email sent to the United Hatzalah organization read: “In light of the increase in security incidents in recent months, the unit has decided to ask the spokesman’s bodies of the organizations we work with to enter us into the WhatsApp distribution groups.”

As part of the their responsibilities, the censor says they need to be “up-to-date on what happens in Israel,” so they are asking to add a specific cellphone number to the groups used to distribute information to journalists.

The request was first reported Tuesday morning on Army Radio by police correspondent Hadas Shteif, who reported that Israel Police opposed the censor’s request.

This is not a new request but part of the ongoing cooperation between the organizations, said an official in the censor’s office. For example, the censor is a member of the Magen David Adom WhatsApp group. Part of censor’s work is to be “synchronized with the bodies distributing security information to the media,” he said.

The MDA spokesman said he has been passing on information to the censor for a while, and “as a national rescue organization we act in full cooperation with the censor, with the IDF spokesman and the Israel Police.” He said it was important to ensure they do not harm national security in any way.

United Hatzalah refused the request from the censor, saying the group includes links between journalists and their sources. The organization said the censor’s role was to oversee the media and not to enter the dialogue between journalists and their sources.

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that the censor had officially contacted some 30 bloggers and administrators of Facebook pages requesting that they submit items for review by the censor ahead of publication, provided they concern areas requiring review by the censor.

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