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Monday, November 03, 2014 

Attorney-general says bill against Israel HaYom is unconstitutional

Even Israel's attorney-general agrees this bill - which Tzipi Livni is backing - is undemocratic:
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has found that the anti-Israel Hayom bill promoted by Labor MK Eitan Cabel is unconstitutional, a legal brief presented to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday stated.

The brief, presented to the committee by Deputy Attorney-General Orit Koren, stated that "at this time, the foundation necessary to support the constitutionality of this bill has not been formed." [...]

A Justice Ministry press release noted that "the deputy attorney-general has made it clear that to justify the measures proposed [in the bill], which inherently violate protected constitutional rights -- the right to property, freedom of occupation, and freedom of expression -- it is first necessary to prove that such a danger to the freedom of the press, which is the stated purpose of the bill, does in fact exist, and that the proposed arrangements will help thwart this danger."

According to Koren, "information presented by Israel Antitrust Authority officials, as well as other data, indicates that at this time, the foundation necessary to support the constitutionality of this bill has not been formed." She further explained that "the bill seeks to prevent a situation in which democracy is threatened by the fact that one newspaper has cornered the market in a manner that compromises freedom of opinion."

The Attorney-General's Office, she said, has sought an Antitrust Authority review on the matter, and the antitrust commissioner "has made it clear that his review of the data has found that there is no such danger, and that the alleged vulnerabilities the bill seeks to guard against, do not exist."

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation has decided to allow free vote on the bill for all coalition members, meaning no faction would be able to impose party discipline on its MKs in the matter.
There has been opposition growing to this bill even in the Knesset among other parties, though you can be sure the Arabic parties in the Knesset will likely want to vote in favor of it. I just hope that most of the other parties have the sense to vote against it. But as Gonen Ginat notes, the so-called justice minister favors the bill despite all points made by those who realize it's wrong:
The discussion centered on the anti-free speech bill currently being deliberated by the Knesset. The bill's over-arching goal is to have this paper shut down. Deputy Attorney-General Orit Koren told the ministers in no uncertain terms that the bill would not pass constitutional muster; it will be struck down by the courts. Her boss, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, should have known that already, but chose not to listen. If this bill is challenged at the High Court of Justice, this will produce a humiliating defeat for the ministers.

In case you missed it, this warning was incorporated into an official Justice Ministry statement; yes, this statement was issued by the very ministry Livni heads. According to the statement, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein believes the bill would infringe on property rights, on the freedom of occupational choice, and on free speech. The statement also pulls the rug from under those who say the bill is necessary because Israel Hayom is in violation of antitrust regulation. In fact, the antitrust commissioner had already noted that Israel Hayom poses no threat to competition when he greenlighted Israel Hayom's acquisition of Makor Rishon.

But Livni will have none of it. Rather than accept that her bill is unconstitutional and that it would humiliate her -- Livni has remained steadfast and said her people are misinformed. She said she will let her subordinates in on the new facts.

That's interesting: the justice minister has no trust in her ministry's senior bureaucracy. She will make sure they get more documents. From where? From Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes?
She's one of the people practically doing this as a favor for Yedioth Ahronoth's publisher, who also favors this extremely disturbing bill, and whose paper should decidedly be boycotted at this point to make an additional statement what we think of him for engaging in this kind of atrocious behavior. There have been more voices in the mainstream coming out against this bill too, like the Jerusalem Post editorial board, and a member of Jewish Home, MK Yoni Chetboun, as well as a UTJ member, have come out against it along with the Israeli Press Council. I'm glad they have sense, and that their votes will make a difference. It's time to put this embarrassment to bed.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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