Israel warns Web sites on war coverage
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
March 20, 2003, 12:45 PM PT
WASHINGTON--Israel's top government censor has warned Web sites in her country not to publish sensitive information about the war with Iraq.
Chief Censor Rachel Dolev sent a letter on Wednesday to "scoop" news sites, instructing editors to seek government permission before publishing information about "materials that could pose a threat to the security of the State of Israel and its residents."
Dolev's letter warned the sites, including Rotter.net and Fresh.co.il, not to publish the locations of any missile strikes, information about Israeli Cabinet deliberations or information about Israeli wartime cooperation with other governments such as that of the United States.
Dolev said editors must contact official censors in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before posting information online. "In addition, censors will be working 24 hours a day in the two media centers--in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and in the David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv--and you may also turn to them," the letter said.
Boaz Guttman, an Israeli attorney, said that the Web sites targeted are widely read.
"Israelis around the globe are connected to this forum," Guttman said. "In such a crazy country, the news appears quicker (in such forums) than in the official media. So you can get videos, pictures, a long time before they will be published on regular TV or radio."
Guttman said this was the first time that the government has warned Web sites. "The (Israel Defense Forces) censor can forget about cooperation," Guttman said. "Everybody knows the law well. If someone needs to publish something, he also knows how to do it without a trace."
Israel has ranked poorly in a press-freedoms index created by advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, ranking below the Palestinian National Authority, Zambia and Cambodia. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned what it called "attempts by the (Israel Defense Forces) to intimidate the press from covering the IDF's widening military campaign in the territories."