Israeli Bills Threaten Human Rights Organizations and Free Press

In early December, Israel’s Likud faction and Yisrael Beiteinu party proposed a law that would stigmatize human rights organizations deemed “political,” as well as imposing severe restrictions on their funding.  In an op-ed on Electronic Intifada, Jonathan Cook writes that

“The “political” ones — meaning those that criticize government policies, especially relating to the occupation — will be banned from receiving funds from foreign governments, their main source of income. Donations from private sources, whether Israeli or foreign, will be subject to a crippling 45 percent tax.

The grounds for being defined as a “political” NGO are suitably vague: denying Israel’s right to exist or its Jewish and democratic character; inciting racism; supporting violence against Israel; supporting politicians or soldiers being put on trial in international courts; or backing boycotts of the state.”

Arround the same time, in late November, Knesset members from Kadima and Likud introduces a Defamation Bill that would likely stifle critical investigative journalism in Israel.

The International Press Institute (IPI) that “Knesset Ministers Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Yariv Levin (Likud) have proposed a bill that would hike the penalty for civil libel from NIS 50,000 (around 9,900 Euros) to six times that figure, media reports said. The fine is reportedly even higher if the publication refuses to print the full response of the plaintiff, another requirement of the new legislation.

The International Press Institute (IPI) is concerned that the penalty increase, combined with the fact that the burden of proof lies with the defendant, could chill investigative reporting in Israel.”


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