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Israel Censor Wants To Pre-Approve New York Times Coverage Of Soldier

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NEW YORK TIMES ISRAEL
The Israeli government told The New York Times on Friday to not publish additional information on a captured Israeli soldier without first submitting to a censor. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- The Israeli military told The New York Times on Friday to withhold publishing additional information about an Israeli soldier reportedly captured by Palestinian militants until it is first reviewed by a censor.

The Times acknowledged the order in an article Friday on the abrupt collapse of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

After the initial publication of this article, the military’s censor informed The New York Times that further information related to the soldier would have to be submitted for prior review. Journalists for foreign news organizations must agree in writing to the military censorship system to work in Israel. This was the first censorship notification The Times had received in more than two years.

The Times added the new paragraph nearly six hours after first publishing the article, according to Newsdiffs, a site that tracks changes in news stories online.

“We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we report, including this one,” a Times spokeswoman told HuffPost. “We aren't going into details beyond that at the moment.”

The Israeli government recently issued a media gag order related to the killings of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teenager, violence that helped lead to the current conflict. While the news media faced restrictions, the Times' Robert Mackey wrote that "a vigorous, at times frightening, public discussion of the killings has continued online based on rumor and leaks used by partisans of both sides to indict their enemies.”

Israeli officials blamed Hamas for abducting the Israeli teenagers, though some intelligence officials have now expressed doubt that Hamas was involved. The resulting war has led to the deaths of nearly 1,500 Palestinians and 56 Israeli soldiers.

In April, the Times acknowledged withholding news that a 23-year-old Palestinian journalist had been arrested because of an Israeli court-imposed gag order. At the time, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren told Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that the paper is “indeed, bound by gag orders.”

Sullivan wrote that Rudoren “said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that the Times has been subject to gag orders in the past.”

Still, some of the paper’s top editors said they didn’t know the Times abided by such restrictions.

Both Dean Baquet, who was then managing editor and has since been promoted to executive editor, and Susan Chira, a former foreign editor and current assistant managing editor, told Sullivan they "were unaware of The Times ever agreeing to abide by gag orders in Israel," she wrote.

UPDATE: 5:55 p.m. -- In a statement emailed to HuffPost, Times international editor Joe Kahn said "we are not submitting NYT articles for prior review by Israeli censors."

"We are aware of a very narrow issue that concerns the censors about the background of the captive solider," said Kahn. "And our reporters in Israel have not reported on that issue. But censors are not reviewing what we publish prior to publication."

This story has been updated with a comment from a Times spokeswoman and a Times editor.

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