Religious Newspapers and Freedom of Conscience
The Israeli website devoted to media-related issues, the Seventh Eye, has an interesting post (H) about a court case involving the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon. Makor Rishon is a newspaper whose main readership is the national-religious public, and its owner, Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, is a religiously observant person. Two years ago the Aguda, an Israeli organization that “[provides] a range of social and legal services, activities and education programs for youth, and cultural events for the entire GLBT community and its supporters,” sought to take out an ad in Makor Rishon. The original ad included the following:
Are you confused? Are you afraid? Do you want to speak about it? You are not alone, there is someone with whom to speak. The hotline of LGBT community is…
Makor Rishon refused to publish the ad, and the Aguda sued Makor Rishon. A Magistrates Court ruled against the Aguda and in favor of Makor Rishon. (The original ruling can be read here. [H]) The judge ruled that there was no discrimination when Makor Rishon refused to publish the advertisement, rather, the law allows for an advertisement to be refused in order to defend the interests of a newspaper’s readers. A policy that strives to keep customers takes precedence over the needs of the advertisement’s intended audience.
A few days ago a District Court overturned the Magistrates Court decision. (Part of the ruling can be read here. [H]) In addition to some contractual questions that the court found to be in favor of the Aguda, the court also claimed that publishing the advertisement constituted a public service (שירות ציבורי) and refusing to publicize an advertisement of such sort constituted discrimination. The judge wrote that “the platform that a newspaper provides, even in its advertisement section, is unique, and this is still true even in the modern period.” She continued and wrote that since Makor Rishon had already published articles about LGBT issues in the past, the newspaper cannot claim that an advertisement about LGBT issues will harm its readership. The newspaper was ordered to pay the Aguda 50,000 NIS ($14,344) in addition to 10,000 NIS ($2,868) for court costs.