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'Time to unite.' Conference in TA Moti Kimchi
'Time to unite.' Conference in TA Moti Kimchi

'Clear and present danger to freedom of the press'

Journalists hold 'emergency conference' amid 'government's attempt to silence dissenting voices'

Tomer Velmer
Published: 11.20.11, 20:01 / Israel News

Hundreds of journalists on Sunday took part in an "emergency conference" to discuss what they referred to as immediate threats to freedom of the press.


The conference, held at Tel Aviv’s Cinematheque, was called in response to a recent downsizing in Israeli media outlets, the pending closure of Channel 10 and a bill toughening Israeli libel laws.


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The host, Motti Kirshenbaum, said the conference was aimed at "fortifying the freedom of the press at a time when there are attempts to (limit it)," adding that "the Israeli press is powerful and influential. Not that it is free of biases or mistakes, but pluralism is crucial to the media's work and must be safeguarded."


The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee recently approved an amendment to the current libel law that, if approved by the Knesset, would result in a significant hike to the maximum damages paid and would loosen the criteria for slander and libel. Critics of the amendment claim this will obstruct freedom of expression and the independent press.


Radio broadcaster Razi Barkai said, "We should have held this conference a long time ago, when the (attacks) on the various media outlets began. We chose a narcissistic profession, and we normally don't care when our colleagues are hurt, but it's time we unite and stop the aggressiveness."


Channel 2 News anchor Yair Lapid warned that "an incontinent government is silencing dissenting voices," while the channel's director Avi Weiss said "the danger is clear and present…The laws are aimed at silencing and restricting us. I am concerned over what is going on at Channel 10. Competition within the press is essential to democracy."



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