Bill aims to ban media images of victims without consent

United Torah Judaism MKs sponsor bill aimed to protect privacy of victims of terrorist attacks, violent crimes or accidents.

MK Moshe Gafni 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Moshe Gafni 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset Law Committee held, on Wednesday, a third and final debate on an amendment to the Protection of Privacy law that would prohibit the publication of images of injured or deceased persons without their consent or the consent of their family members.
The bill, which is sponsored by United Torah Judaism MKs Uri Maklev and Moshe Gafni, aims to protect the privacy of victims of terrorist attacks, violent crimes or accidents, by prohibiting the media from displaying images in which the victims can be identified.
Opponents of the bill said it was an attempt to limit freedom of the press and would harm the public’s right to information.
They urged that a solution be found by increasing self-regulation by the media rather than by legislation.
Maklev said that though he respected and cherished the work of the media, the amendment would strike a balance between the public’s right to information and the individual’s right to privacy.
He said that the amendment would strengthen media ethics, prevent outlets from competing with each other over who has a more bloody photo and present guiding principles to unregulated online news distributors.
The Likud’s MK Miri Regev, who opposes the bill, said it failed to take into account the way that the media functioned.
“The media reality has changed and it forces us to cope. Anyone can contravene the law tomorrow by taking photos with their mobile phone and putting them up on the Internet,” she said.
Regev, who in the past served as IDF spokesman, also suggested looking into the possible unwanted implications of the bill, saying that sometimes graphic images served Israeli advocacy efforts by showing wounds inflicted by it enemies.
Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, who worked as a journalist before entering politics, expressed confidence in the media’s self-imposed censorship, rooted in professional ethics. She said that there were clear professional guidelines honored by most mainstream media that prevented the display of photos or videos deemed “too horrific.”
Yacimovich urged the bill’s sponsors to visit newsrooms and control rooms and see for themselves the decision-making processes that went on. She said that the images that were eventually published were a fraction of the material available to the media and that the fact that those images that were deemed too offensive or invasive were not published was a testament to the media’s self-cesnorship.
“We are a society that experiences traumas and nationbuilding events together, in a way that cements them into the national consciousness.
Much of our shared life here is documented in iconic imagery, which makes us feel like part of something whole and significant,” Yacimovich said. “Once media coverage is detached from these events, you will sever the umbilical cord that feeds the public and creates those moments.”
Kadima MK Nachman Shai said the amendment would not prevent the images from reaching the public, and they would immediately appear either through the foreign press or through the Internet.
Shai said that the existing regulative tools like the National Press Council, internal codes of ethics, the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s regulations and even professional journalistic norms, were protection enough provided they were taken seriously.
In the course of the debate, committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) read out a letter sent to him by a brother of one of the victims in the Tel Aviv gay center shooting in August 2009, who talked about his re-lived pain every time he saw an image of his sister in the media.
Lara Tzinman, whose daughter was murdered 15 years ago, said that the pain never went away.
“The photographers showed up on the scene even before the police got there. They even came to photograph the funeral, despite our requests that the media stay away,” she said.