As NGO bill nears approval, Europe warns Israel against curtailing free speech

Israel’s image as a free and democratic society is being tarred by its government’s recent approval of a bill that would force nongovernmental organizations to reveal foreign sources of funding, according to a European Union memo obtained by Army Radio.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's controversial bill requiring transparency for foreign-funded non-governmental organizations passed a key hurdle Sunday when it passed in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The bill will be brought to its first reading Wednesday in the Knesset, where it is expected to pass with the support of coalition parties and Yisrael Beytenu. It will then go to committee, where MKs hope to change the bill.
Army Radio reported on Sunday that the EU protested furiously the proposed legislation. According to the report, based on what Army Radio said was a leaked internal EU document, EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen met a number of weeks ago with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and called upon Israel to refrain from taking actions that will “make more complicated” the space in which NGOs operate, claiming that this would impinge on freedom of expression and association.
According to the report, the ambassador said that while the request for transparency was legitimate, the draft law is aimed at organizations critical of the Israeli government. “This will have a negative impact on Israel's image and on Europe's relating to it as an open and democratic society,” he was quoted as saying.
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