Israeli Journalists Urge Shin Bet: Don't Press Charges Against Uri Blau

Several prominent journalists have signed a letter that calls for a compromise solution.

Several more journalists joined the call on Tuesday for the government to drop any plans to press charges on Haaretz reporter Uri Blau for holding on to secret army documents passed to him by Anat Kamm.

The new signatories include Israel Radio military correspondent Carmela Menashe, Yedioth Ahronoth researcher Ronen Bergman, and Channel 10 political correspondent Chico Menashe.

The call, first released on Sunday and signed by prominent journalists including Channel 1 presenter Geula Even and Army Radio host Razi Barkai, included a suggestion for a compromise, in which Blau would return only the documents given to him by Kamm, in exchange for the prosecution guaranteeing not to press charges.

"We feel the Blau case is unique and we are concerned this unique case will bring about a dangerous precedent," the journalists wrote. "As of today, prosecution authorities don't seek to try reporters for the offense of retaining classified information, an offense most of us are guilty of in one way or another. We believe this policy represents the appropriate balance between freedom of the press and of expression and security needs. It would be wrong to change this balance without any real public debate."

Blau is currently in London.

Kamm released a written statement Tuesday waiving her privilege as a journalistic source.

Kamm's attorney Eytan Lehman met on Tuesday with Blau's lawyers, Tali Lieblich and Mibi Moser, to deliver the statement, in which Kamm also urged Blau to give Israeli authorities whatever documents she might have given him.

"I hope the return of the document will open the way to restarting negotiations with the Shin Bet security service," Lieblich said, "eventually allowing Blau's own return to the country, as a free man."

The lawyer stressed that no negotiations had taked place between Blau and the Shin Bet since the gag order on the affair was lifted last Thursday. Lieblich said that in the negotiations before the gag order was removed, the Shin Bet demanded Blau submit his entire archive of documents, including everything he collected in his career as a journalist, for review.

She said responding to the request could expose sources used by Blau for other, unrelated reports, who could then face criminal charges similar to Kamm. The Shin Bet also sought to interrogate Blau and possibly press charges against him for holding on to classified documents.

Lieblich said no media organization could agree to such conditions, and so Blau still has no immediate plans to return to Israel.