Gisha protests IBA condition for ad

Broadcasting authority comes up with novel way of letting gov't critics pay to advertise its position on controversial policy matters.

Gaza hospital 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Gaza hospital 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Israel Broadcasting Authority has come up with a novel way to let the government's critics pay to advertise its position on controversial policy matters. The case in point is a commercial ad that Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, wanted to broadcast on Israel Radio, protesting the government's policy of barring Palestinian students from Gaza from crossing through Israel to study abroad. Gisha wanted to broadcast three versions of the ad, one narrated by former Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, one by actress and author Alona Kimchi and one by writer and poet Yehonatan Geffen. The script for Kimchi's ad is as follows: "Hello, this is Alona Kimchi. Higher education is a formative experience in developing identity and enlightened values, an experience that we all have the right to. "However, the government of Israel is preventing hundreds of Palestinians from leaving Gaza to study abroad. Opening the gates to academic education abroad for Gaza students will facilitate the development of an educated, moderate and peaceful society. We all need to learn, Gaza students included." The IBA originally rejected the ad on the grounds that in accordance with its regulations, it did not broadcast "politically controversial" ads. Gisha appealed the decision before a committee headed by IBA chairman Moshe Gavish, which rejected the appeal. IBA spokeswoman Linda Bar said IBA director-general Motti Sklar suggested revising the ad so it would also give the government's "side" of the story by stating that the government prohibition "stems from security considerations." Gisha legal adviser and former Public Defender Kenneth Mann wrote to Sklar, "The appeals court suggestion to include the government's position is incomprehensible. There is no legal basis to suggest that a commercial ad include a reference to the government's position. A human rights organization does not have to serve as a trumpet for the government as a condition for exercising its right to freedom of expression. This condition is particularly unacceptable when it comes to an organization which wants to pay for the air time." In response, the IBA spokeswoman wrote, "The script of the ad which was rejected does not meet the requirements of the law since its contents are controversial. The organization appealed to the IBA appeals committee and it also did not approve the original script. In Mr. Sklar's letter, he suggested an alternative to the script. It was in no way an attempt to impose one script or another. The organization can accept the director-general's suggestion or make another one."