UPDATED information on Guardian claim regarding Israeli press card requirement

EDITOR’S NOTE on April 23:  This post was amended after we learned, per the Israel Government Press Office, that journalists are indeed required to sign a ‘censorship form’ to obtain a press card.  The mistake was made when we conflated Israeli courtgag orders‘ (which journalists are NOT required to abide by in order to receive a press card) with the ‘censorship document’.

We apologize for the error.


Majd Kayyal, an Arab-Israeli journalist and web editor at the NGO Adalah, was released to house arrest late last week, days after being arrested on suspicion that Hezbollah attempted to recruit him while he attended a conference in Beirut.  

Additionally, a media row over the news ensued when the New York Times revealed that it had abided by the Israeli gag order on Kayyal’s arrest and didn’t report the story until the order was lifted last Thursday.

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian’s media blogger, published a story about the incident on April 22 titled New York Times obeys Israeli gag order over journalist’s arrest.

Here are the relevant passages in Greenslade’s story:

The paper’s delayed publication of the story about the detention of Majd Kayyal (see below) was revealed by its public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

She quoted the NY Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, as explaining that the acceptance of gag orders is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land.

Sullivan also consulted in-house lawyer David McCraw, who evidently described the situation as “somewhat murky”. She quoted him as saying: “The general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media.”

Similar issues arise when US news media organisations cover the British courts, he said.

Sullivan was clearly unconvinced by the argument advanced by her paper’s bureau chief, saying that she found it “troubling” that the NY Times should have to wait for the Israeli government’s approval before deciding to run a story.

A “little transparency would go a long way”, she said, and the the story should have informed readers what had happened. Perhaps Jodi Rudoren, who became bureau chief in May 2012, was being overly cautious. Her task is hardly easy as she explained earlier this month in an interview with Hadassah magazine.

Then, in a subsequent passage, Greenslade makes the following claim:

My understanding is that although foreign journalists who want to obtain a press card in Israel are required to sign a censorship document in order to obtain a press card, in practice few submit their copy on security issues to the censor.

However, his suggestion that foreign journalists are required to sign a “censorship document” in order to obtain an Israeli press card seemed questionable in light of this passage from the NYT article by Sullivan:

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past.  (An earlier version of this post said that The Times agrees to abide by gag orders as a prerequisite for press credentials, but Ms. Rudoren told me today that that is not the case, although it was her initial understanding.)

Per Jodi Rudoren, foreign journalists are evidently NOT required to abide by ‘gag orders’ in order to obtain a press card.  

However, as we later learned, the ‘gag order’ is not the same as a ‘censorship document’, so our conclusion in the original version of this post – that Greenslade got it wrong – was not correct.  

This post (and the original title) has been revised accordingly. 

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