WhatsApp might be censored by Israely army

Israel bans whatsappAfter Facebook, it seems that in Israel the interest of the IDF Censor (which should be an independent body, but it’s headed by a military officer appointed by the political echelon) is oriented towards WhatsApp.

According to an interesting article posted on 972mag.com (a blog-based web magazine whose name is derived from the telephone area code that is shared by Israel and Palestine), the IDF Censor is trying to expand its control over new media, and is demanding that both police and first responders have their information supervised before they pass them to journalists through WhatsApp. The news follows a report by Army Radio made public on Tuesday.

Nowadays spokespeople in Israel (such as first responders or the police) often use WhatsApp to communicate with journalists and this popular instant messaging app is largely used by reporters to obtain their preliminary information. As reported this week by +972 Magazine, the IDF Censor is expanding its control not only over mainstream media, but also on private blogs, Facebook and other independent news and analysis sites.

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The magazine states that with this kind of censorship the state has the only right to decide what is in the public interest. And a letter sent by the military censor’s office to the spokespeople operating WhatsApp groups for journalists seems to confirm this politic. That’s part of the content of the letter, which was obtained by Army Radio:  “The censorship unit is entrusted with preserving the balance between the right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to know in Israel, and for that purpose we need to know what is happening in the country,”.

+972 Magazine asks a really interesting question: “How many journalists will follow up on a story they believe they can never publish? ” Especially if the Censor decides to tell the press which information can or cannot be reported. Currently only a non-profit and independent first responder service (United Hatzalah) has refused to add the censor to the WhatsApp groups, while the Israel Police spokeswoman declined to give any comments. +972 has asked directly to a representative of the IDF Censor’s office if this kind of censorship law represents a change in policy, and the reply was no.

What’s happening in Israel is not an isolated case (another eaxmple is China), and also in Europe – even if the situation is completely different – the use of WhatsApp is often regarded as dangerous because it could be used by terrorists.

 

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