MK backtracks on bill to jail journalists who publish investigations info

MK David Amsalem says he will remove a clause in the so-called “recommendations bill” that could see journalists jailed.

Newspaper (illustrative). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Newspaper (illustrative).
Following heavy media attention and significant political opposition, MK David Amsalem says he will remove a clause in the so-called “recommendations bill” that could see journalists jailed for a year for publishing information leaked from police investigations.
The clause is part of Amsalem’s legislation aimed at prohibiting police from making a recommendation to the attorney-general to either indict or acquit the subject of a completed investigation.
He told the Knesset Interior Committee on Tuesday that the clause was “a printing error” and that the person who had drafted the law for him had done a poor job. He added that it would be removed from the draft bill scheduled for a vote on Thursday.
According to the clause, a person “who publishes information from material of an investigation or passes that material to an unauthorized individual without permission from a court [is liable to] imprisonment for a year.”
Amsalem denied that it was designed to muzzle the press, telling Army Radio on Monday that journalists were not his target.
“My intention does not concern journalists – journalists don’t interest me so much,” said the Likud MK.
He added that the intent was to prevent individuals in the police or State Attorney’s Office from leaking such information.
“We are not trying to close freedom of expression in Israel,” he said.
Despite Amsalem’s denial, he did not explain why the clause states that both those who “pass on” investigative material and those who “publish” it would be subject to prison sentences.
When asked about his opposition to President Reuven Rivlin’s decision not to pardon Elor Azaria for having shot dead a wounded Palestinian terrorist lying on the ground in Hebron, the MK took the opportunity to snipe at the press.
“By the way, [for] the majority of journalists, their children aren’t going around Hebron,” Amsalem stated during the radio interview, implying that the children of journalists do not serve in IDF combat units.
Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova has denounced the proposed legislation, saying it is designed to protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from investigations currently under way.
“In a democracy, one doesn’t threaten journalists doing their job with imprisonment,” said Svetlova. “Someone with nothing to hide doesn’t send his emissaries to legislate such laws.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report