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Israel Cabinet Amends Libel Law; Seeks Approval of Parliament

May 24, 1966
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Amendments to Israel’s year-old libel law, enacted during the final days of the Knesset (Parliament) last summer and decried vigorously by many persons in Israel interested in freedom of the press, were adopted by the Cabinet here yesterday and placed on the Knesset’s agenda today.

The amendments to the law, denounced as overly drastic by many journalists, had been recommended by a special commission created by the Cabinet to consider the protests. Under the new version, printers of libelous materials, or distributors of such matter, will not be held responsible unless they knew, or should have known, that the material was libelous. If the material is deemed libelous, only the news editor or editor-in-chief of a publication would be held responsible. The Cabinet made it clear in adopting the amendments that publication of truth is in the public interest.

Among the commission’s recommendations was a clause forbidding the “treatment of news items in such a manner that the normal proportions of the item are exceeded.” The Cabinet struck that clause from the new version. The commission that studied the changes in the libel law was appointed last year by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. It was headed by Supreme Court Justice Alfred Witkon.

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