Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Israel's New Libel Law Proposal

From Dror Eydar:

One law, one viewpoint

...the proposed amendment to the libel law...will definitely be modified before it enters the law books, if it even makes it in. But the propaganda surrounding it in the media this past week can fill an entire new volume of the adventures of Baron Munchausen. allay our fears. Even if the bill becomes law, the media will continue its investigative reporting – probably presenting more reliable information than before, and hopefully getting responses of the subjects of investigation before going to print...the issue at hand is the mass hysteria encouraged by the media, which is careful to allow "experts" to explain the bill's shortfalls but fails to examine the reasons behind the formulation of the bill.

...For ages, the Israeli media has given a platform to a monolithic voice regarding the political and cultural issues that divide Israeli society, but it is convinced that it is being pluralistic...
...Take all the core issues under serious discussion in Israel today and ask yourselves: does the media really care to present the full range of opinions on these issues? Yesterday morning, journalist Razi Barkai interviewed Prof. Mordechai Kremnizer, following an interview with Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, and before that Prof. Yedidia Stern - three people who get interviewed time and time again. The common thread among them is that they all head the Israel Democracy Institute, a leftist body that opposes current legislation – and that is their right. But you won't find Barkai interviewing experts with no less merit who support the legislation. That is the world that he, and most of his colleagues, live in. That is also the depth of the news editors' interviewee lists - editors who all individually think alike...a one-dimensional media, whose political motivations supersede any journalistic ethics, and whose intellectual curiosity is limited to a narrow and embarrassing list of topics.

The proposed libel law amendment reflects the age-old mutual alienation that exists between the Israeli media and the public. It reflects the impossible situation in which a minority group has imposed its values, lifestyle, preferences, and belief system on us, while attempting to silence, ridicule, and drive the true majority insane.

Unfortunately, ethical journalism expired a long time ago, and with it went objectivity and integrity. And where there are no ethics, there will be laws.

And from Uriel Lynn:

...this bill actually has many positive aspects...[but] allow me to suggest one modification right off the bat: The amendment should impose a hefty fine on the source of the false information rather than on the reporter who prints it.

Anyone who understands democracy knows that freedom of the press is essential in providing the public with truth, and with the tools to criticize the bodies that govern it. The real problem is trying to strike a balance between freedom of the press and individuals' basic rights...It is much harder to prove the extent of the damage caused by libel than to prove the actual libel. Often the damage is impossible to prove – how can you measure the damage to someone's name?

...One can't help but get a sense that the press' harsh reaction to this amendment can be attributed to self-preservation and not just the preservation of democracy.

...The amendment also toughens the law against individuals who defame others maliciously, which is another welcome change. I propose that the bulk of the fine should be imposed not on the body that prints or broadcasts the libel, assuming they performed their basic duties, but rather on the source of the false information, even if the source is a government office – in fact, especially if the source is a government office...

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