Rose Foran | The Media Line
22 June 2009
Israel’s Deputy State Prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation into a website that allegedly published a picture of an Israeli soldier with the word “Murderer” over his photograph.
Indymedia Israel, a leftist news outlet, accused the soldier of killing a Palestinian protester with a gas canister during a clash in the West Bank village of Bilin in April. The website told its readers to forward the photograph, and asked if anyone knew more information about the soldier.
The caption on the site reads, “The soldier in the picture had murdered Abdallah Abu Rahma by direct shooting of a gas canister in Bilin on April 17. Do you know his name or any other details?”
However, the Israeli Deputy State Prosecutor claims that the soldier in the photograph was not responsible for the man’s death, and released a statement saying, “It seems that the shooting that caused the death of [the Palestinian protester] was not carried out by the soldier in the picture.”
The Prosecutor intends to pursue the website for the criminal charges of insulting a public officer and invasion of privacy.
“The law prohibits publishing a person’s photo in the public sphere in circumstances in which the publication could degrade him or humiliate him,” the statement read. “For these reasons, the publication requires opening a criminal investigation.”
Pro-Palestinian organizations are in outcry over the Justice Department’s allegations, claiming the crackdown is a violation of free speech.
“I think the type of legal action they are threatening to take is against the principals of free speech and independent journalism,” activist Andrew Muncie of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian advocacy organization, told The Media Line.
Muncie claims that the criminal investigation is part of a wider Israeli government initiative to crack down on media sympathetic to Palestinians.
“The Israeli government has a particular official department that employs a number of people, and their job is to trawl the internet and forums like YouTube to complain about any material which is critical of Israel,” he said.
The Prosecutor’s office said that this wasn’t the first time IndyMedia had acted offensively. Previously, however, the website took down any inflammatory material before legal action could be carried out.
“There has already been a criminal investigation of IndyMedia in the past for suspicion of incitement of violence and insulting a public official,” the press release explained. “However, it was shelved because the moderators removed the website.”
At a later date the site was brought back, but no charges were filed.