Israeli Court: Journalist Has Right to Withhold Tape From Police

Police claim tape, which covers a demonstration near the separation fence in the south Hebron hills, holds crucial evidence needed in an investigation.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Wednesday ruled that a journalist need not give police a video he made during a confrontation in the territories, even though police claimed there is crucial evidence on the tape that it needs in its investigation.

The video was taken by veteran Channel 1 correspondent Nissim Mossek, who had been invited in late August to cover a demonstration near the separation fence in the south Hebron hills.

Pisgat Ze’ev - Emil Salman - 12082011
Emil Salman

The demonstration deteriorated into confrontations between demonstrators and IDF soldiers, and 12 activists were arrested.

A short time after Mossek left the area, he got a call from a police representative asking for his video of the incident to facilitate the investigation.

"I knew that if I'd hand over the tape I would expose my sources, and that they might arrest other people," Mossek said Wednesday.

Rather than give the tape to police, he gave it to the Israel Press Council, which promised to defend him and not give the tape to police.

The police then subpoenaed the tape.

In response, the press council asked the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to cancel the subpoena, and Wednesday Judge Abbas Assi ruled in Mossek's favor.

"Handing over the tape would lead to exposure of the journalist's sources...journalistic privilege is meant to protect this type of interest," Assi wrote.

He noted that the police had other ways to get the documentation it needed, such as from security cameras that operate in the area.

"I think this is an important ruling, particularly at a time when the free press is in retreat and lives in fear and under pressure," Mossek said Wednesday.