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.
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.
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
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 journalists in 131 countries