Israeli sources reported, that the Israeli Knesset passed, in the first reading, a controversial bill dubbed as “libel law” aiming at increasing compensations paid for “libel violations” to NIS 300,000. Israeli Peace Now Movement stated that the bill is a legislation targeting Free Speech in Israel.The bill is considered an amendment to the Israeli Libel Law, and was passed in the first reading, by 42 to 31 votes by the Israeli Knesset, Israeli Ynet News reported.

Ynet added that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, Member of Knesset (MK), Meir Sheetrit of Kadima party, Trade and Labor Minister, Shalom Simhon, MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and Zevulun Orlev of the Jewish Home Party, voted for the bill.

The Ynet stated that the law calls for increasing the maximum amount of compensation paid by those convicted of “libel violations” by paying the subject of “slander” 300,000 New Israeli Shekels, which at current conversion rates amounts to approximately $80,000. The amount is six times the current amount of libel compensations allowed by current libel laws in Israel.

Also, the bill states that when it comes to statements that are considered libel, released internationally, without giving the subject/s of the claims that chance to defend themselves and to be able to respond to the claims, the offenders can be sued and could be ordered to pay damages that can be as high as 1.5 Million New Israeli Shekels, or approximately $400,000.

MK Zevulun Orlev of the Jewish Home Party, one of the initiators of this bill, stated that he might vote against it in the second reading if it was not revised, explaining that people convicted of murder in Israel are not subject to such high fines.

Orlev said that the way the bill is worded shows a lack of balance when it comes to the protection of free speech and independent media agencies.

Meanwhile, MK Uri Orbach, also from the Jewish Home Party, opposed the bill and stated that it will be an issue of personal profit to MK’s, ministers and officials.

He added that the high fines this bill is calling for a person to “prefer to kill than to slander”.

Furthermore, Hadash Party member, MK Dov Hanin, strongly denounced the bill for being “an extreme punishment for publishing a statement that did no harm”.

Hanin added that “this law is suggesting that Israel does what regimes that are barbaric do to punish libel by cutting the tongue of the offender”, the Ynet reported.
Israeli Peace Now Movement stated that the bill is “another crazy anti free speech legislation passed by the Israeli Knesset”.

Peace Now added that “This time the ‘Libel Law’ will completely destroy investigative reporting and exposure of wrong doings by those in power and those with powerful means in Israel”.