Petition filed to reveal full gag order

HaKol HaYehudi logo; Screenshot of website

Monday, May 3, 2021, 13:33 Elhanan Gruner, a professional journalist from the HaKol HaYehudi website, petitioned the High Court of Justice with a request to order the State of Israel to justify why he has not been presented with a full copy of the gag order following which a tweet he posted was removed from Twitter. The tweet includes a photograph of a policeman from the site of the accident in which Ahuvia Sandak, z”l, was killed in a police car chase. Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who filed the petition on behalf of Gruner, wrote that “failure to present the order constitutes a prolonged violation [of Gruner’s rights] which must be stopped immediately.”
The petition states that while removal of the tweet in compliance with a gag order is legal, “removal of the tweet without a legally binding gag order or without presenting a gag order, constitutes illegal and undemocratic silencing, hence the request and the petition to order the Attorney General’s office to present the petitioner with a full copy of the gag order.”
Later in the petition, the factual background of the request is given. On December 22, 2020, one day after Sandak was killed, Gruner, a card-carrying member of the Israeli Government Press Office 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.
Two weeks later, on January 7, 2021, Twitter locked Gruner’s account until the tweet was removed on the grounds that it “violated our rules forbidding posting private media of an individual from a country in which there is a law protecting the right to privacy.”
The grounds for closing the account led to a clarification with the Attorney General’s office as to whether they were behind closing the account, and they were. Later the office confirmed that they had demanded that Twitter remove the tweet: On January 7, 2021, the Attorney General’s office sent Twitter a letter demanding that the tweet be removed in compliance with the gag order, and it was.
On January 21, 2021, two weeks after his account had been closed, Gruner received a partial copy of the gag order which does not specify what policemen are included in the order, what content is included and what justification was presented to the judge who issued the order. Since then, Gruner has requested a complete gag order from the Attorney General’s office, but has not been answered. In responses to the Union of Journalists in Israel, the Attorney General’s office did acknowledge their responsibility for removing the tweet. However the complete gag order still has not been revealed.
Due to a claim that the Jerusalem Magistrates Court had issued a gag order on the name of the police interrogator mentioned in the tweet, Gruner was interrogated at the Ma’aleh Adumim Police Station on suspicion of “violating a legal order and disseminating disinformation,” on March 3. (See here and here for updates.) However, the gag order was issued on December 27, 2020, five days after Gruner posted the video clip. Additionally, the gag order was not announced to either the media or to the public and Gruner was not informed of it until after the tweet had been removed. After the interrogation, Gruner asked the Attorney General’s office for a complete copy of the gag order, but despite repeated requests, has not received it. Therefore Gruner filed the above-mentioned petition with the High Court of Justice.
Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who is representing Gruner: “From the very start the Attorney General’s office has tried to keep everything in the dark. They wrote a letter to Twitter without informing the journalist whose tweet they demanded removed. They still, even now, have not presented the gag order to us. It is not unusual for the Attorney General’s office to work in the manner of ‘Big Brother,’ but it is our job to fight for democracy, freedom, and transparency.”

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