Israeli journalist jailed for exposing the truth

Marianne Azizi writes:

An Israeli blogger and independent journalist has been thrown into jail for exposing the injustice, arbitrariness and corruption of the Israeli legal system.

On 1 June Lory Shem Tov had received a call from the Jerusalem police “inviting” her for questioning. No reasons were given. She replied by saying she was a journalist working on an explosive story.

Anyone with experience of the Israeli system will know that was the “wrong”.

Soon afterwards, police turned up at her home, which she shares with her partner. They took her house keys and burst into the house, seizing all electronic equipment indiscriminately, without distinguishing between what was hers and what was her partner’s. She was taken to a Jerusalem police station and held for six hours before the interrogation began.

Lory Shem Tov arrested and handcuffed

Lory Shem Tov arrested and handcuffed

Lory Shem Tov handcuffed in police custody

Lory Shem Tov handcuffed in police custody

In Israel, after three hours of questioning the police must either place the person in custody or release them. Close to midnight Lory was put in custody pending a hearing the following day. Lawyers were sent urgent messages through Facebook and went to her aid.

Champion of the truth

Lory had exposed a case in which a woman who had accused her husband of violence was in fact the perpetrator of the violence on her own child.

The father had won the right to take his daughter out and quickly departed with her somewhere in the country. Police demanded to know where the father was, and for Lory to reveal her sources. The father’s name is Roi Cohen, the mother’s name is Batya (Mizrahi) Cohen and the child’s name is Yehudah Cohen.

Batya Cohen managed to get a gag order quickly to prevent the names being published in Israel. Lory acted by writing a story in the best interests of the child, as the mainstream media had published only one side of the story which, with the evidence Lory had, she believed to be untrue.

Lory is already facing a huge fine for exposing the alleged dubious practices of a lawyer – which had been broadcast on national TV.

In another case, she shared information regarding Yosi Silman, the former director-general of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, and his overseas private bank accounts, which were linked to the profits made by the ministry from trafficking children to private institutions. This topic was also featured in a Channel 10 TV documentary. I shared the information in another article, but the video was removed by YouTube. It is in the process of being resurrected to share in English again.

Lory is a champion of the truth. She breaks gag orders without fear, informing and educating the public about the corruption of judges and social workers, and malpractice in processes that are damaging families. She is on the national council of journalists who themselves are prevented from publishing names. But she does.

Prediction come true

Last week Lory wrote an article about Palestinian journalists being imprisoned, saying that this was just the beginning and that it would not be long before Israel meted out similar punishments on its own truth seekers. It was a prediction that came true all too quickly.

Lory Shem Tov has had her own experiences with the courts. She lost the right to see her children thanks to her former husband having “connections”. She fought long and hard for her rights all the way to the Supreme Court. She passed psychiatric examinations and jumped through every hoop she could to regain contact with her children. Those who helped her were punished and professionals lost their jobs. She suffered enormous heartbreak.

Lory decided to continue by exposing wrongdoing, so that other families become more aware of the twists and turns in courts. Finally, the authorities had her in prison.

The decision to place her in custody was explained by Judge Karen Miller as follows:

Lory Shem Tov was arrested for obstructing justice, for illegal publications and for publishing about a minor. Twenty four hours are requested. This is for a story published in May 2016. The authorities are trying to locate the minor.

Lory is a blogger who uploaded footage related to a minor and was therefore arrested for fear of obstructing justice in the context of a kidnapping, and for warning the father who escaped the authorities. The arrest is not about publications but because of the fear of obstruction…

She is not just a blogger who expresses opinion about the kidnapping; there is a reasonable fear that she is more involved.

The police informed the judge that they had a “secret file”. This meant that her lawyer could not be allowed to access information.

Another blogger was removed from the court on the basis of “secret information”.

Lory was therefore placed in custody for fear of obstructing justice. What she published was evidence, which the mainstream media were not allowed to publish, showing the violence perpetrated by the mother, Batya Cohen, against the husband, Roi Cohen, and the child, Yehudah Cohen.

Hard evidence

Lory’s case is not one of abetting the kidnapping of a child. As she had written, the child’s father, Roi, had legal rights to his child given to him by the rabbinate with an order to investigate the mother, Batya, who, as you can see from the video below, was indeed violent 

In the video below, you can clearly see Batya’s aggressive behaviour towards her son.

To imprison a journalist for exposing injustice and official malpractice is a violation of freedom of speech and human rights. Friends of Lory tried various international avenues to help her, including writing to the emergency help centre of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Email to the emergency help centre of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Email to the emergency help centre of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

In the middle of the night on 2/4 June, Lory was released from custody. Those who have experienced police methods in Israel say she will probably be put under surveillance, including having her phones tapped. Her electronic equipment remains with the police and it could take days or weeks to retrieve.

Lory has been a target of the authorities for some time, and it seem that her only protection is to publicise her case internationally, not just in Israel. Details of Lory’s arrest were published in one newspaper in Israel but her name was censored, affording her little protection.

The punchline – to be detained on the fear that one might breach the law – should terrify us all. How many of us could be imprisoned for our thoughts or possible intentions? George Orwell would be proud of his prophecies.

The truth has become the enemy of governments, to an extent that they are prepared to imprison those who speak out. Mainstream media are complicit in this. But Israel appears to have more fears than most of the truth being told.

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