Knesset session 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debated on Tuesday a bill
that would change the current system of gag orders.
The bill, proposed by
MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), would impose a limit of seven days on court orders
prohibiting the media from reporting the names of suspects in police
investigations or of those named in court cases.
Within that seven days,
the court would conduct a hearing regarding the gag order, and in certain cases
would be empowered to extend the order.
Currently, courts can issue
unrestricted gag orders.
The courts issue approximately 300 gag orders
every year, Shai said.
The Tel Aviv District Court issued such a gag
order on Tuesday, preventing journalists from publishing the name or identity of
the 20-year-old man convicted of murdering attorney Anat Pliner.
said the court orders can be problematic.
“There is disrespect for the
gag orders in the sense that the Israeli media obey the orders but anyone can
find the information [about a person’s identity] in the foreign media or on the
Internet,” he said.
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) said that gag orders should
be “proportional,” in order to safeguard national security and protect the
public’s right to know.
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) opposed the bill, and
said that it is intended to “prevent the names of public figures who are
suspects from being published.”
Representatives from the media, including
Channel 2’s attorney Yisgav Nicodemus, slammed the legislation, which they say
will harm the public’s right to know.
Under current law, every journalist
has the right to appeal against gag orders.
In the corruption trial of
former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Jerusalem District Court earlier this
month, journalists in the courtroom expressed their objection to the gag order
placed on publishing the names of two people who had donated to Olmert’s
The committee also debated draft legislation that would
prohibit the publication of a suspect’s name for 48 hours after that person is
informed he is under investigation.
Attorney Yifat Rave of the Ministry
of Justice said that the 48-hour gag would not apply in exceptional
circumstances, including if the suspect agreed to publication. A senior police
officer would also be empowered to authorize the publication of a suspect’s
name, in situations where that suspect posed a danger to the public.
court could also permit the publication of a suspect’s name, if it were deemed
to be in the public interest.