Israeli Military Censor
The Israeli Military Censor (Hebrew: הצנזורה הצבאית) is a unit in the IDF Directorate of Military Intelligence which watches over the publication of information regarding the military network, and generally, the security of Israel. The Military Censor, as part of its duty, has authority to suppress information it deems compromising from being made public in the media. In practice however, the ability of the censor to suppress publication of news stories in the Israeli media is rather limited as Israeli news outlets often circumvent the censor by reporting stories "as quoted from foreign news sources", which, since they were originally published outside of Israel, are not subject to the restrictions of the Israeli military censor.
The Censorship Agreement
In 1966, the Censorship Agreement was signed between media representatives and the IDF. The media agreed to abide by the orders of the Military Censor, while the IDF agreed not to misuse its role. Three main points of the arrangement are:
- The purpose of the censorship is to prevent the publication of security information which could benefit the enemy or harm the State.
- There will be no censorship on political issues, on expressions of opinion or assessments, unless they hint on classified information.
- The Military Censor will inform the media which issues demand its approval. The list is subject to change, but always includes two overarching issues: the security of the State, and the immigration of Jews from nations hostile to Israel.
Parliamentary and judicial oversight
During the 1990s, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee appointed a subcommittee, chaired by Yossi Sarid, to examine the existence and role of the Military Censor. The subcommittee recommended to keep the Censorship Agreement in place, but amend it by:
- Extending the terms of the Agreement to all media outlets in Israel, not only media outlets with representatives in the Editorial Committee.
- A simple appeal of a decision rendered by the "Censorship Committee" will not be heard by the Chief of Staff but by a Supreme Court Judge, or retired Judge with an Arbitrator status in the Arbitration Law.
- The terms of the Censorship Agreement will also be extended to foreign journalists working in Israel
- A newspaper will be allowed to cite anything published in another newspaper, unless the Military Censor decides the material poses "imminent and immediate danger" in the spirit of the terms established by the Supreme Court.
- The Military Censor or the Interior Minister are to be prohibited from shutting down a newspaper that is not part of the Agreement without giving it the opportunity to appeal the decision in the courts.
The former president of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, ruled that, when in direct conflict, the right to live supersedes the right to expression:
- Precisely because of the existential nature of the security issues, it is important that the public be aware of the host of problems, in a manner where it is able to arrive at wise decisions on the fundamental problems which trouble it. Precisely because the repercussions that decisions of a security nature have on the life of nation, it is suitable to open the door to openly exchanging of views on security issues.
In March 2005, it became public that the Ministry of Defense-appointed Winograd Commission for reviewing the authority of the Military Censor (chaired by former judge, Eliyahu Winograd), whose members were selected by the then-Chief Censor Colonel Miri Regev, would recommend expanding the authority of the Military Censor, by proposing legislation to repeal the 1989 Supreme Court ruling which limited the scope its authority on legitimate news reporting. But since then, opposition for the move (initiated by commission member, professor Asa Kasher) was expressed by professor Gabriela Shalev, another commission member. The Winograd Probe has yet to publish its report.
The Chief Censor
The unit is commanded by the Chief Censor, an officer directly appointed by the Defense Minister. It is an entirely independent position in the IDF, which is neither subordinate to the Defense Minister, nor the Chief of Staff, Aman Director, or any one else on the chain of command or from the political echelon, and is only subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight. As of August 2005, the Chief Censor is Colonel Sima Vaknin.
- 1954 – Lavon Affair. Censor circumvented by use of code words.
- 1977 – The Rabin Memoirs. Yitzak Rabin's account of David Ben-Gurion's 1948 instructions to expel the populations of Ramla and Lydda removed from English edition.
- 1982 – Tyre HQ attack.
- 1984 – Kav 300 affair. Picture published in The New York Times.
- 1986 – Trial of Mordechai Vanunu.
- 1988 – Assassination of Abu Jihad. Two American reporters have their accreditations removed for failing to submit stories for clearance.
- 1997 – Attempted assassination of Khalid Mashal.
- 2002 – Operation Defensive Shield. 2 April: CNN and NBC threatened with legal action for broadcasting from Ramallah.
- 2008–2009 – Gaza War.
- Aluf Benn (July/August 2001). "Israel: Censoring the past". Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. University of Maryland. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- P.R. Kumaraswamy (September 1998). "India and Israel: Evolving Strategic Partnership". Mideast Security and Policy Studies. Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Arye Wahal, et al., "Censorship types: the Censorship Agreement, The Center for Educational Technology, 1996 (Hebrew)
- Moshe Negvi, "The Military Censor: Abstract", Amalnet, 1994 (Hebrew)
- Moshe Negvi, "The Military Censor: Open press and security, two sides of the same coin", Amalnet, 1994 (Hebrew)
- Anat Baling, "Asa Kasher wants a wider censor, but in the Winograd Commission not everyone agrees", Haaretz, March 6, 2005 (Hebrew)
- Associated Press, "New chief military censor takes office", Jerusalem Post, August 23, 2005 (English)
- see Peretz Kidron
- Shipler, David K. (1986) Arab and Jew. Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-1273-X, pp. 33–4, 557.
- McGeough, Paul (2009) Kill Khalid. The failed Mossad assassination of Khalid Mishal and the rise Hamas. Quartet Books. ISBN 978-0-7043-7157-6. Page 194.
- Journal of Palestine Studies. #124, Summer 2002. Page 211.