IFJ Backs Opposition to 'Gagging' Press Bill in Israel


International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today supported Israeli

journalists who are leading the opposition to the press bill introduced

in the Knesset to reform the media law in the country. The private member bill,

proposed by Yariv Levin from the Likud party and supported by Meir Sheetrit of

Kadima provides for hefty increase in the amount of damages which can be

awarded in libel cases without proof of actual damage.

Media reports

say that, if the bill is passed, defendants in libel cases could face up to

60.000 Euro in damages from just under 10.000 Euro under the existing law.

Fines could rise to over 70.000 Euro if "the complaint's response is not

published in full".

"This draft legislation

is a self- serving tactic for powerful figures who want to frustrate public

scrutiny," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "No one has any grounds to fear

anything from the kind of responsible and professional journalism that is part

of the democratic fabric of Israel."

It is reported

that the bill's sponsors claim to act in the interests of citizens who need

protection from ‘the great power of media' but journalists dismiss this as a

barely veiled attempt to silence the free press in the country. They accuse the

right wing politicians and the rich and powerful of waging a campaign to stop

the press from investigating and exposing malpractices of influential figures.

The IFJ backs

the position of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists (NFIJ), an IFJ

affiliate, which strongly criticised the bill and urged the Knesset

to vote it down and protect the valuable role the media has played in ensuring

accountability on behalf of the Israeli public.

"We are

concerned that this law will lead to self- censorship out of fear of crippling

damages on media outlets," said Danny Zaken, NFIJ senior representative and chairman

of the Journalists' Association in Jerusalem. "We shall spare no efforts to

persuade the Knesset to avoid the slippery slope towards gagging the vibrant

Israeli press."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235

22 07

The IFJ represents more than

600.000 journalists in 131 countries