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Laws Drafted to Curtail Press Freedom in Israel

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Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir disclosed to a shocked and outraged audience of journalists that certain government quarters have drafted draconian laws which would severely curtail freedom of the press if they were ever to be adopted.

The Attorney General made it clear that he was not referring to the Justice Ministry, where he himself is the senior official in charge of drafting laws. He spoke in Tel Aviv last night at a meeting honoring Yehoshua Rotenstreich, president of the Israel Press Council, on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

Zamir said he was as much appalled as the journalists by the measures contemplated, which would establish a system of licensing for journalists, just as doctors and lawyers require a state license to practice. He said that some politicians who believe they were hurt by the media support the proposed measures as a way to strike back.

Zamir also noted that of late, the news media has become increasingly unpopular with large segments of the public. He indicated that the looming danger of restrictive measures should prompt the media to voluntarily tighten enforcement of its own rules of journalistic ethics.

The draft bill to which Zamir referred is far more restrictive than the bill presently under consideration by the Cabinet which would forbid the media from publishing the name of a suspect until the person has been formally charged with an offense. “There are values of freedom of the press and of the public’s right to know,” Zamir said, “but they cannot supplant the right of an individual who stands defenseless against the might of the media.”

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