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Whistle-blower gets four and a half years, has 45 days to appeal

(RSF/IFEX) - 31 October 2011 - Reporters Without Borders condemns the four-and-a-half-year jail sentence that a Tel Aviv court passed yesterday on online journalist Anat Kam for copying classified military documents while she was doing obligatory service with the Israel Defence Forces and for passing them to a journalist with the Tel Aviv-based daily Haaretz.

The court also imposed a suspended sentence of an additional 18 months in prison. Kam has 45 days to appeal.

"This severe sentence violates the right to the confidentiality of sources and sets a dangerous precedent that could encourage reporters to censor themselves," Reporters Without Borders said. "Without taking a position on the content of these documents and their classification, we point out that the media must be able to report law-breaking and must be free to tackle sensitive subjects, such as the IDF, without risk of being prosecuted."

While doing military service from 2005 to 2007, Kam was a clerk in the office of then Central Military Region Chief Gen. Yair Naveh. She used her position to copy 2,085 documents and pass them on to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau, who in turn used them for a series of articles critical of the IDF.

One of his stories reported that the IDF defied a Supreme Court ruling by ordering soldiers to kill members of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad who could have been arrested. The story was approved at the time by the military censors. For the time being, Blau has immunity from prosecution.

After completing her military service, Kam worked for the Walla news website. She has been under house arrest in Tel Aviv since 2009. The two years under house arrest will not be deducted from her jail sentence.

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