Journalist falsely detained over tweet

HaKol HaYehudi logo; Screenshot of website

Thursday, March 4, 2021, 15:00 The police have interrogated under warning Elhanan Gruner, a journalist from the HaKol HaYehudi website, without the authorization of the Attorney General’s office, as required according to special regulations regarding the interrogation of journalists, despite the opposition of the Union of Journalists in Israel and despite the fact that there is absolutely no grounds for suspecting him of violating any law.
On 22/12/20, after the incident in which Ahuvia Sandak, z”l, was killed in a car chase with detectives from the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police, Gruner posted a video clip on his personal Twitter account from the scene of the incident in which a police investigator is seen smiling at the camera. Gruner added a caption: “This is the face of the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police. An investigator arrives at a murder scene with a smile spread across his face.”
Due to a claim that the Jerusalem Magistrates Court had issued a gag order on the name of the interrogator mentioned in the tweet, Gruner, a card-carrying member of the Israeli Government Press Office, was interrogated at the Ma’aleh Adumim Police Station on suspicion of “violating a legal order and disseminating disinformation,” on Wednesday, March 3.
However, the gag order was issued on 27/12/20, five days after Gruner posted the video clip. Additionally, the gag order, which includes six petitioners, was not announced to either the media or to the public. The order, which was transferred to Gruner only after a request on his behalf to the Attorney General’s office, also does not mention names and the petitioners are referred to as “ploni” and “almoni” (Hebrew terms denoting unidentified persons), and their identification numbers are blackened out, so to this day it is impossible to determine the identity of who the individuals are whose names were forbidden for publication.
The interrogation was not given the requisite authorization from the Deputy Attorney General, and that is contrary to the police regulations regarding interrogating of journalists. When Gruner explained to the interrogator, who had phoned him to schedule the interrogation, that he was a journalist she replied, “What does that matter?” Moreover, the entire incident had already been covered by the media after following a request by the Attorney General’s office, Twitter locked Gruner’s account until the above-mentioned tweet was removed.
In light of the removal of the tweet, the Union of Journalists in Israel wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s office demanding clarification of the matter and protesting the removal of the tweet.
“The conduct of the Attorney General’s office is irregular and a significant injury to the journalist and thereby to the freedom of the press,” wrote Attorneys Moran Saborai and Amir Basha.
Instead of responding and apologizing, the police went so far as to summon Gruner to an interrogation.
At the beginning of his interrogation, Gruner described the unfolding of the events and his objection to being silenced, to the violation of freedom of expression and to the political harassment. In addition to the above-mentioned tweet, Gruner and the HaKol HaYehudi website had publicized a series of investigative articles and reports about the conduct of the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police.
Gruner said that up to the moment he testified, the police interrogator had not noticed that the gag order was signed five days after he had posted the tweet, and therefore the publicization of the tweet had not been even the slightest violation of the law. After the interrogation, Gruner’s fingerprints were taken, he was photographed, and in the end, he was unconditionally released.
Gruner: “Also before the interrogation I directed the attention of an interrogator by the name Ma’ayan to the dates of the tweet and the gag order, and despite that, she decided to interrogate me under warning and even to ask me about my work as a journalist for the HaKol HaYehudi website. And this was all without the authorization of the police commissioner and the Attorney General’s office, contrary to the regulations of the Attorney General and the police.
“This is criminal behavior on the part of the police and intentional harassment motivated by politics and our work on HaKol HaYehudi to reveal the truth about the death of Ahuvia Sandak, z”l, and a series of investigative articles and reports about the conduct of the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police. If the police think that tyrannical and illegal conduct will cause us to shut up, they are mistaken. We will continue to post investigative articles and reports and to reveal the truth.
“This topic was clarified in our correspondence with the Attorney General’s office, publicized in various news media, and a letter on the topic was sent by Attorney [Moran] Saborai on behalf of the Union of Journalists in Israel. And all this did not prevent the police from summoning me to an unjustified interrogation. I asked the interrogators if there was no more crime in Israel since two interrogators have precious time to waste on this nonsense.”
Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar, who is representing Gruner: “Again we have encountered a serious incident of an unjustified interrogation by the hysterical, irresponsible and unprofessional police, who dare to open a case and persecute a journalist who did not do anything wrong. And it was all in order to threaten a public discussion on the pretext of defending policemen.”

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