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The Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) held a protest in front of Ha'aretz offices in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening, claiming the paper was continuing to publish advertisements encouraging human trafficking.
TFHT filed a report in June demanding an investigation into the paper and its owner, Amos Schoken. The advertisements in question offer the services of prostitutes, while other ads call for women to work in prostitution in Israel or abroad.
According to TFHT head Roni Aloni Sedovnik, advertisements related to prostitution are far more expensive than standard ads and therefore could not be the initiative of prostitutes advertising privately. The ads could only be funded by wealthy organized crime syndicates, she maintained.
According to Sedovnik, Schoken and his business partners must know the identities of these syndicates, because a clause in the Income Tax Law mandates that newspaper owners know the identities of those advertising in their publications.
The protest was also directed at other major dailies Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv. All three papers, Sedovnik said, would cite freedom of expression and the inability to distinguish advertisements for prostitution from other advertisements as "excuses" to continue publishing them.
Freedom of expression, Sedovnik said, "is subservient to a person's right not to be enslaved ... By giving a stage to pimps and other human traffickers, [the paper is allowing] organized and efficient trading in trafficking victims." The ads "make the paper complicit in the crime," she added.
According to the Web site Omedia, Schoken said earlier this week, at a TFHT meeting headed by former High Court justice Dalia Dorner, that the newspaper "cannot afford to give up on revenues of a million dollars a year from these ads."
The legal adviser for Yediot Aharonot wrote in an official letter to the TFHT that the paper would continue publishing ads advocating prostitution services.