"Legislative bullying" – That is how several Knesset member described an amendment to Israel's
Defamation Prohibition Law, which was presented to the House for a vote on Monday.
The current law allows the court to order a plaintiff be paid NIS 50,000 (roughly $14,000) without having to prove damages. The amendment seeks to increase the basic amount sixfold.
"This will push us back tn the dark ages," one MK told Ynet. "This is nothing but legislative bullying meant to shut people up," another added.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
MK Yariv Levin (Likud),
who put the bill before the Knesset, argued that the bill would "help maintain true freedom of speech."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin eventually announced the debate over the bill would be postponed, saying that Muslim and Druze MKs – who did not attend Monday's plenum – should be present for it.
Members of the Coalition slammed Rivlin over the decision, saying it was motivated by his own personal objections to it.
Rivlin criticized the bill, saying that "freedom of expression is facing a legislative onslaught from within the Knesset… The media has earned this initiative, but the bill is disproportionate and will lead to the shutting down of small media outlets, while impeding the others' ability to play their part in Israeli democracy."
Levin's bill is expected to garner the Coalition's support.
"We will vehemently opposite this notion," MK Eitan Cabel (Labor)
told Ynet. "This is not a bill worthy of being included in Israel's laws. It belongs in the trash."
Labor MK Daniel Ben Simon added: "This is another layer in the darkness plaguing this Knesset, which aims only to constrict the citizen's role (in democracy) to bolster other values that contradict freedom of expression."
A former journalist, Ben Simon added that the bill "would make reporters' jobs incredibly difficult. They would constantly have to worry about getting sued for millions."