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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.

5 Responses to “Religious Newspapers and Freedom of Conscience”

  1. 1
    DF:

    Thus proving once again that the left is, inevitably, more tyrannical and inflexible than anything on the right. This judge ought to be impeached and disbarred.

    Easy for me to day, I know, but I’d love to see the publisher refuse to pay it, and see if the government has the guts to enforce the court order.

  2. 2
    Abul Bannat:

    The link to the original ruling is a dead link. But here’s a link to (a portion of) the appellate decision of the District Court from January 12, 2014:

    http://www.psakdin.co.il/fileprint.asp?FileName=/Minhali/Private/ver_yylg.htm

    If you have a copy of the full decision it would be interesting to read.

    Guts or no guts, the “government” wouldn’t enforce the “court order” since this is a civil dispute. Aguda would have the right to submit the money judgment to the Court’s execution of judgment bureau (lishkat hahotza’ah l’fo’al) to enforce collection of the amount of money awarded to it in the judgment.

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:

    Abul Bannat,

    I fixed the link to the original ruling. Originally I had the link to the partial newer ruling that you mentioned, but I took it out since it was only the beginning. Now it’s back. The whole ruling should be posted at some point, I’ll look around for it.

  4. 4
    DF:

    Thanks for the clarification, Abul? So how does it work? In the U.S., the court has no enforcement mechanism of its own.

  5. 5
    Abul Bannat:

    DF: Actually, in NY the initial execution and attachments are served by a Marshal.
    See: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doi/html/marshals/marshals.shtml Similarly if you collect a federal judgment there are federal marshals who are charged with that task. I haven’t done any collection work in over 7 years – and when I did it was pretty rare; but I once used a federal marshal to attach a yacht in New Jersey.

    In Israel (where the last collection work I did was about 25 years ago), the enforcement bureaus were a branch of the court. Because of your question, I just checked and it turns out that in 2009, the various enforcement bureaus were spun off from the courts and now there is an entire Enforcement and Collection Agency (r’shut ha’achifa v’hagvi’yah),
    See: http://www.eca.gov.il/index2.php?id=268&lang=HEB

    My simple point was that the judgment was a civil money judgment and nobody was forcing anyone to do anything.

    As to your remark regarding the tyranny and inflexibility of the left, I would take issue. There are numerous right wing groups in Israel that frequently assert claims against media and public figures that arise from publications and broadcasts. You may have read recently about facebook group that was sued by “Im Tirtzu”.

    As for impeaching and disbarring the judge – if decision was wrong or even very wrong and stupid – the recourse for that would be to seek relief from the decision in the Supreme Court (if I’m not mistaken, the paper would have to seek leave to appeal and couldn’t appeal as of right). However, impeachment and disbarment are reserved for judges who commit crimes or engage in unethical conduct. I’m not familiar with this judge, but at least one lawyer has criticized her rather severely. See: http://www.quimka.com/rh/lev-har/series_fwd.htm

    Although I post anonymously – please note that none of the legal-oriented material in my comment is intended as legal advice and it may not be relied upon as such. If you seek legal advice – hire a lawyer.

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