LA Times talks to Israel’s chief censor

Posted: May 4, 2010 by Jonathan Boyko in IDF, Israel
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Censorship. Totalitarian regime or a neccessity? As many might know, Israel employs censorship to a certain extent, making sure sensitive information does not reach enemy hands through the press. The idea sounds draconian and totalitarian, thus LA Times’ reporter Batsheva Sobelman met chief Israeli censor, Sima Vaknin-Gil. The interview is a spectacular one, and a must-read:

What are the powers?

The censor can shut down a newspaper. The censor can have someone jailed or searched if suspected to be concealing information — all on the censor’s decision alone. Speaking as the one formally entrusted with these powers, I can say it is unthinkable that a single, independent official would have such sweeping authority in a democracy, which is why the state put these aside and chose to work within a different framework.

Politicians might be tempted to take advantage of censorship to suppress information that could be politically damaging or just personally embarrassing. Can’t the system be abused?

This is precisely what the law had in mind in determining the autonomy of the censor, who is subordinated to absolutely no one but the Supreme Court. A politician cannot call the censor and ask to prohibit a report that would harm his image, reputation or other interests. In my five years, never have I received an inappropriate request. And even if I were to be approached in this way, there is no one who can force me to do this. The censor’s independence is sacred.

(LA Times)

WHILE CENSORSHIP IS indeed viewed as totalitarian measure around the world, Israel had good reasons to hide some of the sensitive data from its enemies in the past. With the country being so small, rumors – including truthful ones – spread around fast, and without proper review army’s tactics, weapons knowledge or names of operatives could reach the local press. While the United States could allow free-for-all speech without much consequence, for Israel, such leaks could mean massive loss of lives.

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  1. […] LA Times talks to Israel’s chief censor « The Middle East Informer […]

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