Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shine - The watchdog that bit democracy

Dr. Haim Shine..
Israel Hayom..
31 May '12..

The attorney-general's decision to try Haaretz reporter Uri Blau for the unauthorized possession of confidential material was good, and brave. In a country where the media dictates the national agenda on many issues, courage is required to stop the reckless behavior of journalists who, under the protection of freedom of expression, put Israel in real danger. It is not the attorney-general's job to dictate codes of behavior — that job is reserved for the legislative and judiciary branches of government. The attorney-general's job is to ensure that well-founded indictments are heard by the court. The attorney-general is supposed to treat everyone equally: rich and poor, elected official and common citizen, journalist and any other professional.

The message communicated by the attorney-general's decision to indict Blau is important: Freedom of speech is not freedom to commit national suicide or freedom to abandon judgment. Journalists can be expected to display a fair amount of responsibility and regard for the security of the state and its values. Anat Kamm and Uri Blau are not heroes. Efforts by the radical left-wing media to portray them as such are absurd: They portray an enemy as an ally, liberation as occupation and cowardice as civilian courage.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental concept in any liberal democracy. However, every intelligent person realizes that freedom of expression is not unlimited. The greatest advocates of natural rights, individual rights and democracy have rightfully believed that there is no such thing as an absolute right. Even human rights must be exercised in moderation, and take into consideration other people's rights.

As early as the 1960s, Israel's Supreme Court recognized democracy's right to defend itself. A journalist does not have immunity, and certainly does not have the right to undermine state security. The media's right to criticize the government, expose failures and spark public debates is protected by the law. But a watchdog that claims to protect democracy cannot turn around and attack that same democracy by illicitly possessing thousands of classified documents without proper authorization.


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