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Netanyahu announces support for controversial libel law amendment

JTA

November 21, 2011 | 3:18 pm

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Nov. 20. Photo by REUTERS/Uriel Sinai/Pool

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Nov. 20. Photo by REUTERS/Uriel Sinai/Pool

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out in support of a libel law amendment a day after Israeli journalists gathered to protest the bill.

The libel law amendment has passed a first reading in the Knesset, and was scheduled for its second and third readings Monday night. The measure relaxes the criteria for slander and libel, and more than triples the maximum damages for such infractions.

“As long as I’m prime minister, Israel will continue to be an exemplary democracy, and no one will tell anyone what to think, what to write, what to investigate and what to broadcast,” Netanyahu said Monday at a party meeting.

“We will preserve democracy, the freedom of expression and the rights of minorities,” he added.

On Sunday, reporters, editors and other Israeli media figures met to discuss their opposition to the libel law amendment as well as the upcoming closing of Israel’s second commercial television channel, Channel 10.

Amendment opponents say the measure will limit freedom of the press and stifle investigative journalism, and that the fines are excessive.

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