Photojournalists photographers journalists reporters 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Veteran journalists and relative newcomers to the profession were among members
of the media who crowded into the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Sunday to protest
against the proposed amendment to the libel law.
The bill proposed by MKs
Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Yariv Levin (Likud) would raise the court-imposed
penalty for publishing libelous material – without proof of loss – from NIS
50,000 to NIS 300,000, as a deterrent to what the legislation’s sponsors see as
an increase in the incidence of libel.
Speakers were almost unanimous in
saying that if the law is thus amended, investigative reporting would become
financially onerous and reporters would become afraid to expose corruption and
other flaws in the system.
The emergency meeting, which was the
brainchild of Army Radio broadcaster Razi Barkai, coincided with the shutting
down of the Voice of Peace radio station (for not having a license) and the
threatened closure of Channel 10 (for financial reasons).
was long overdue,” Barkai said. “It should have been held when attempts were
made to shut down Educational Television, to introduce mass dismissals at the
Israel Broadcasting Authority, to silence Army Radio and to initially pull the
plug on Channel 10.”
“The new legislation, if enacted, will prevent the
truth from being reported,” journalist Hagai Segal said.
“But this latest
development in muzzling the media would not be beneficial to anyone,” he said.
“Even journalists who have been labeled as left-wing or who are openly left-wing
agreed that insufficient coverage had been given to right-wing issues. That said,
this did not justify limiting one of the basic tenets of democracy, which is a
Ilana Dayan, from Keshet and Channel 2, said, “Everyone here
knows the fear of wanting to report something but being afraid to do so because
of what might happen afterwards.” Dayan said she knew what it was to face a
lawsuit for reporting what one believes to be the truth.
don’t represent democracy in terms of being the elected representatives of the
people,” she said. “But they do represent democracy when defending the public’s
right to know.”
Dayan was among the speakers who said the media had
sometimes been unsympathetic to settlers, and who suggested that the proposed
amendment to the libel law was a red light warning.
“The media is in an
unprecedented perilous position,” said Avi Weiss, the head of the Channel 2 News
“The attempt to silence us is designed to make us
While determined to fight the current bill, Channel 1’s Ayala
Hasson sounded the most upbeat note when she said, “The media is
Look how many people are here. No other event in Israel could
have attracted such a huge media turnout.”
Politicians were not the only
ones cast in the role of rogues.
Speakers also blamed tycoons who had
vested interest in keeping the media under control.
MK Nitzan Horowitz
(Meretz) proposed on Sunday an amendment to the libel law in which the burden of
proof would be on the person claiming damages, and not on the
“The attempts to raise the damages awarded in libel suits to
monstrous proportions is meant to strike fear in the media and prevent it from
investigating and reaching the truth. Therefore, an additional element that
exists in many countries must be added to the law: If you sue for libel for a
massive amount, then the burden of proof is on you.”Lahav Harkov
contributed to this report.