Court rejects MK Hazan’s libel claims over drug use, pimping, accepts it over drug dealing
After MK Oren Hazan (Likud) took Channel 2 News to for libel, a judge found that while there was no substantial evidence to prove Hazan had acted as a drug dealer during his days as a casino manager in Bulgaria, claims of his own drug use and procuring prostitutes for casino clients are acts that are not prosecuted under Bulgarian law, and therefore fall under 'responsible journalism.'
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ruled mostly in favor of Israeli Channel 2 News regarding an exposé that detailed the misadventures of MK Oren Hazan (Likud). Hazan sued Channel 2 News for libel, after reporter Amit Segal claimed that while Hazan managed a casino in Burgas, Bulgaria, he supplied high-rolling guests with prostitutes and used hard drugs. The court found that since these were not considered against the law in bulgaria, such claims were legitimate and fell under “responsible journalism.”
However, while the court found Segal’s reporting on the aforementioned claims to be considered reasonably substantiated, a further claim that Hazan also acted as a drug dealer for his casino clients was found to be false, awarding Hazan NIS 40,000 in damages.
Channel 2 News issued a statement following the verdict, referring specifically to the damages it was ordered to pay over drug trafficking claims. “These claims did not appear in the original exposé but were added later on by mistake. We did not deny the fact that it was a mistake throughout the entire trial.”
Despite the abovementioned statement by Channel 2 news, the court document stated that Segal did, in fact, deny any mistake or wrongdoing during the beginning of the trial, and that while he clarified the mistake on air the day following the airing of the original exposé, he only corrected the mistake in an article published online several months later.
The court decision referred to Hazan’s role while working for the casino. “It has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, through testimonies and documents submitted by the defendant, that the plaintiff was the casino’s CEO and driving force, despite the plaintiff’s vehement denial throughout (the legal proceedings).”
Judge Azaria Alkalay, who presided over the case, also rejected the idea that Hazan’s reputation was damaged due to the report. “One can certainly claim that the plaintiff’s reputation is not pure and free of any fault,” he wrote.
Hazan himself had a different perspective on the verdict. “A quick read-through of the verdict is enough to once again show that Amit Segal and Channel 2 have sinned by giving a false and distorted report. Despite an unprecedented smear campaign joined by all old the media guard to protect one of its own, the Israeli Court instructs a seemingly senior reporter to pay damages the sum of NIS 40,000 and states that there was no trafficking of drugs or women. If I were them, I would be ashamed, not celebrating.”