ACRI denounces the secret arrest and investigation of journalist and Adalah employee Majd Kayyal


The ability to arrest someone, interrogate him and prevent him from meeting with an attorney – all under the auspices of a public gag order – are extraordinary powers. The use of such powers harms the rights of detainees, impairs government transparency and exponentially increases the danger of unlawful actions by government agencies. It is reasonable to expect that such draconian powers would be used with the utmost discretion and only in the most extreme cases.


In the case of Majd Kayyal, the use of these secretive powers is clearly unfounded. The state attempted to conceal its actions following Kayyal’s return to Israel – a perfectly aboveboard trip to Lebanon, devoid of any covert or suspicious activities, which were later revealed through social media channels and the media. What justification is there for secretly arresting and interrogating a journalist for five days, who at most could be charged with the crime of entering an enemy state? What could reasonably form the basis of the decision to prevent him from meeting with a lawyer? These questions are even more pertinent in light of the fact that many other Jewish journalists who have travelled to Lebanon and other countries in recent years have not become the subjects of investigations.


Gag orders, when used appropriately, can certainly possess an important function in advancing investigations by the police and security forces. But as soon as a suspect is arrested, the imposition of a blanket gag order is absolutely unacceptable in a democratic society where secret arrests cannot take place. In the case of Kayyal, the lack of justification for a gag order, as well as its ineffectiveness (seeing as the arrest was widely reported via social media networks), exposes the absurdity of these clumsy attempts at obfuscation and raise the concern that it is really intended to quell public debate around this perplexing arrest.


ACRI is greatly concerned by the selective and discriminatory enforcement of the law against visiting enemy states, as viewed in this incident. The prohibition is rarely enforced for Jewish journalists, who receive much acclaim for what is considered brave and professional journalism. Yet when it comes to an Arab journalist, the ban is suddenly enforced and suspicions are raised about contact with foreign agents. The discriminatory application of this legal provision effectively transforms this law into an improper method for monitoring and controlling the movements of Arab citizens.


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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Due Process, Freedom of Information

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