'As long as I'm in power Israel will be democratic'

Netanyahu defends libel law amendment; Sheetrit to oppose unless changed; opposition calls legislation "anti-democratic."

November 21, 2011 18:18
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday defended a controversial amendment to the libel law that would raise the court imposed penalty on libel, saying "no one will tell the media what to write and what to investigate."

"I was raised on the values of [former prime minister Menachem] Begin and [Ze'ev] Jabotinsky... Israel will continue to be a strong democracy," Netanyahu said during the weekly Likud faction meeting in Jerusalem, adding, "Freedom of expression will exist in all parts of society."

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Responding to criticism from the opposition that called recent legislation anti-democratic, the prime minister said he will ensure that Israel remains democratic.

"As long as I'm in power, Israel will continue to be a democracy," Army Radio quoted Netanyahu as saying.

The prime minister added that he will vote in favor of an amendment to the libel law that is up for a vote Monday night.

"When I thought there were laws that harm democracy, I didn't hesitate to come out against them," he said, announcing his support for the amendment.

Kadima said Monday it would oppose the amendment after voting to do so. Kadima said it would, however, allow MK Meir Sheetrit to vote for the amendment because he proposed it. Most of the opposition opposes the change to the law.

But Sheetrit said that if fundamental changes are not made in preparation for the second and third readings of the law amendment, he too would oppose it.

There will be coalition discipline in the vote set to take place Monday night, but MKs from Habayit Hayehudi and - most likely from - Independence will abstain.

The bill has fired up Israeli journalists over fears that the government is seeking to limit freedom of press.

On Sunday a large group of veteran and amateur journalists gathered in Tel Aviv's Cinematheque to protest the amendment to the libel law, which would increase the fine for libel from NIS 50,000 to NIS 300,000.

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