Israeli Journalist Claims Material on Dimona Nuclear Reactor Leaked by IDF Censor's Office

Chief IDF censor admits leak of Amnon Levy's materials 'the most severe in last seven years'; Levy demands suspension of officials involved.

Journalist Amnon Levy claims that a video that was sent to the military censor was leaked to concerned parties, who proceeded to threaten those interviewed for the piece. In a letter sent roughly ten days ago to Dalia Dorner, president of the Israel Press Council, Levy wrote that the journalistic materials sent to the censor – a film clip about the nuclear reactor in Dimona, to be broadcast next week on Levy's show "Panim Amitiot (True Face) – fell into the hands of nuclear facility security services.  Security personnel then attempted to exert pressure on persons interviewed for the film clip, including four of the reactor's founders.

As a result, Levy asked Dorner to look into the issue with the military censor (the body by which all journalistic material in regarding sensitive security issues must be cleared prior to publication), demand the suspension of the person that handled the material, and check the censor's procedures for working with security forces. The Israel Press Council confirmed that Levy's correspondence was received.

In his letter, Levy writes "The censor reviewed the piece and requested changes, which we made immediately, and we thought the process was over. To our surprise, a few days after the film and a transcript were sent to the censor, before we received final confirmation, we received a phone call from one of the persons interviewed for the piece, one of the founders of the nuclear facility."

"He told us that he was contacted by an assistant security officer for the facility, who had received the transcript of the clip, and warned him against participating. According to the interviewee, the assistant security officer told him the film was too left-wing."

In his letter, Levy also wrote that the chief IDF censor, Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin-Gil admitted that the leak was a serious mishap. Vanknin-Gil also added that the information was passed to a senior official with the Ministry of Defense Security Authority.

In response, Vankin-Gil said "It is a very serious failure – the most severe in the last seven years. The Director of Security of the Defense Establishment also saw it as a serious failure, and took care of the issue that very day."

Levy added that "While I was impressed that censorship officials are aware of their obligation to freedom of expression, there is no guarantee that the security officials with whom they consult share that awareness. Furthermore, some of those security officials are depicted in the piece, and in this case, they were presented with an opportunity to influence interviewees pre-publication."

The security establishment responded to the incident, saying that " the Ministry of Defense Security Authority recognizes the severity of the incident, and as such it has been dealt with. If the nuclear facility security official in question consulted by the MDSA did in fact discuss information with an interviewee, they did so without permission and against regulations. As previously stated, the incident is being investigated, the proper lessons will be learned in order to prevent an occurrence of this nature in the future."

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A partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in the Negev desert.
Thomas Coex/AFP
Amnon Levy
Tomer Appelbaum