Israeli Newspaper Wins Appeal Against Government Censorship

The daily newspaper Hadashot won a court appeal Tuesday against the Israeli government in a decision that appeared to throw into question the way the country’s military censorship currently works.

Hadashot was appealing a 9-year-old conviction for violating a press censorship law when it published articles about the April 1984 hijacking of an Egged passenger bus and the subsequent storming of the vehicle by Israeli security forces.

While storming the bus, Israeli security forces shot dead two of the four terrorists who hijacked the bus on its way from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon.

The other two attackers were photographed being led out of the bus alive, despite the fact that the government initially said that all four terrorists had died on the bus.

The two men apparently died while in custody, and orders to shoot them reportedly had been issued by Avraham Shalom, then head of the General Security Services, known popularly as the Shin Bet.

Shalom later resigned over the ensuing scandal.

Hadashot published the damaging photograph and also disclosed that a secret commission had been established to investigate the killing of the two captured terrorists by security forces.

PAPER CLOSED FOR THREE DAYS

The government’s military censor closed down the paper for three days and sued it for breaking the censorship laws.

As a result of the suit, three of Hadashot’s editors were fined by the court.

The severe disciplinary action was partially due to the fact that Hadashot was not a member of the Chief Military Censor-Editors Committee. This is a body that can substitute negotiations between the government and offending newspapers for the automatic legal action that otherwise results.

Hadashot appealed the fines originally imposed by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to a higher district court, which Tuesday cleared the paper of any wrongdoing.

The district court ruled that while the chief military censor had issued a general notification to the media of “sensitive” topics which required pre-publication censorship review, the censorship list had never been codified in law as required.

The decision appeared to call into question the very basis on which military censorship presently works.

Military sources said the censor’s office had not yet studied the new ruling and had not decided whether to take further steps against Hadashot.

The military censor’s office came under scrutiny recently when it took action against foreign correspondents, including the withdrawal of press credentials, because these reporters failed to submit copy to censors for pre-publication examination.

In response to criticism over that incident, the military censor agreed to advise reporters about items considered “delicate.”

That move by the censor would relieve reporters of the responsibility to make that decision themselves.

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