Shai, Michaeli press 'revolutionary' change to gag orders

MK's claim technological advances lead to leaks and overuse by judiciary system conflicts principle of freedom and public's right to know.

By
January 2, 2014 19:43
2 minute read.
Nachman Shai.

nachman shai 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A bill which would revolutionize the state’s handling of gad orders will be taken up by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday.

The bill’s initiation by Labor MKs Nachman Shai and Merav Michaeli followed heavy criticism of gag orders on cases of public interest, including the cases of Anat Kamm, Prisoner X and singer Eyal Golan.

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Shai told The Jerusalem Post that the current legal regime for issuing gag orders is “too broad and overbearing.”

He added that “today we are living in a different world where often the gag orders are not relevant since leaks” through the Internet happen so easily; “Our laws cannot ignore reality.”

The Labor MK emphasized that overuse of gag orders also conflicted with the principle of freedom of information and the public’s right to know about important developments.

The bill would require a hearing within seven days of certain gag orders going into effect.

Also, it would require courts to almost immediately revisit the possibility of voiding a gag order, once it was brought to the court’s attention that the information intended for protection was already exposed by informal media, and to weigh whether continuing a gag order was relevant in light of the exposure.

Next, the bill would give a representative of the press a formal standing to argue for the removal of gag orders at any hearings on the issue.

Shai continued, “laws are not made to last eternally, they must consider changing realities” and argued that the current laws applying to gag orders “have failed” and created embarrassing situations where a person’s identity – protected by a gag order – was easily findable in informal Internet media, but was being kept secret by institutional media outlets due to legal prohibitions.

He said that the current law made sense in a historical time period where “if you stopped five big media outlets from publicizing something” you could keep the information secret.

But he said the Kamm, Prisoner X, and Golan embarrassments exposed how inapplicable that concept was today.

Explaining why the new bill had more of a chance to pass now – as he has been campaigning for it for years – Shai said that both the police and the attorney-general were backing the initiative.

Next, Shai said the police already have new internal rules directing the reduction of the use of gag-orders, but they’ve been ignoring them.

He said that part of the idea of the bill was to give stronger teeth to a general principle, which seemed to be otherwise ignored.

Shai said the bill would not reduce protections of identity in cases involving rape victims, minors or other cases where an individual is part of a protected class of persons.


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