The Justice Ministry is working on a new amendment to the penal code that aims to reform the way that the media, law enforcement authorities and criminal suspects interact. The bill proposes to prohibit the media from releasing raw evidence and testimonies from the interrogation room. If the bill is passed, anyone who violates it could be sentenced to a year in jail.
The state intends to enact a series of restrictions that would serve as a sweeping gag order on all investigatory materials. For instance, if the amendment would have been in effect when former President Moshe Katsav was being investigated, while still in office, his rape victims' testimonies could not have been released to the public. The publication of information surrounding inquiries into public officials or any other incidents of significance would be restricted under the amendment.
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The proposal is being backed by a number of state bodies; the Israel Police, which seeks to limit disruptions to investigations and to avoid public relations blunders; the Justice Ministry's Public Defense unit, which wants to prevent leaks made by the prosecution and the police; and the State Prosecutor's Office, whose interest is to protect the purity of court proceedings. Their solution is to forbid news outlets from releasing these details.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The amendment would require reporters to get the court's permission to release information about an investigation and prohibit public officials or anyone else to transfer materials from an investigation case. Furthermore, all investigation materials and photographs or videos taken during law enforcement activity could be placed under an indefinite gag order.
Officials discuss bill
Currently, court permission is required only for the publication of video and audio recorded during an interrogation. Testimonies and other evidence are allowed to be released, excluding cases involving minors, rape victims and other restricted cases.
The limitations laid out in the proposal wouldn't apply exclusively to cases where criminals are indicted or convicted. A defendant who is vindicated in trial, for example, would not be able to disclose the details of his investigation without the court's approval.
The bill was discussed in a conference on Wednesday, which was attended by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Justice Ministry Director General Guy Rotkopf, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and representatives of the media, the Public Defense unit, the police and other government bodies.
The Justice Ministry said that all the involved parties had the opportunity to present their arguments over the bill, which is still in its very early stages.
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