Report: Police Slam Ban on Recording Conversations

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli border police seen patrolling in Yerushalayim’s Old City. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli border police seen patrolling in Yerushalayim’s Old City. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A proposal by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to prevent individuals from recording conversations unless both parties in the conversation are aware that a recording is being made would be “devastating,” law enforcement officials told Haaretz over the weekend. A spokesperson for police said that if the proposal did come up, police would “oppose it with all their resources. Not only will this law harm the interests of innocent citizens, but it will make it much harder for us to fight crime.”

Reports last week said that Netanyahu is considering pushing a law that would prevent individuals from recording conversations unless both parties in the conversation are aware that a recording is being made. Netanyahu, according to the reports, sees the current law that allows recordings if only one party is aware that a recording is being made as an invasion of privacy.

Under current law, a conversation in Israel can be recorded if it is initiated by one of the parties, or if one of them is aware that a recording is being made. The party aware of the recording does not have to inform the other side that it is being made. Conversations in which neither party is aware of the recording can be made only by police.

While direct police recordings would not be affected by the law, police are said to be concerned that civilians who cooperate with police by engaging with criminals will not be able to supply evidence, as they obviously cannot inform the other party to the conversation that they are being recorded. “When police get a complaint from a civilian about someone else, they tend to discount reports of crime, taking into consideration that the complainant is trying to get back against someone,” one police official told Haaretz. “But when they bring in a recording, that changes everything.” Under the new law, such recordings will be inadmissible as evidence.

Such civilian-originated recordings were key factors in several recent high-profile criminal cases, such as the conviction of Ehud Olmert aide Shula Zaken, as well as others.

A report on Channel Ten said that Netanyahu had hinted at the proposal at Knesset committee meeting last week. A source at the meeting said that Netanyahu had said that “this is a matter of defending the rights of the individual. There are numerous places in the United States where such rules exist. Of course, police will be exempt from this law.” The source said that Netanyahu had not made any specific decision on whether or not to advance the law, “so there was no need to get overly excited,” the report quoted the source as saying.