A draft Israeli law that criminalised filming Israeli soldiers engaged in activities including confrontations with Palestinians passed its first reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.
“For many years already the state of Israel has witnessed the troubling phenomenon of the documenting IDF soldiers…by anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups”, the bill’s explanation stated.
“The documentation (of soldiers) is biased and edited in a one-sided way with one purpose: To undermine the morale of IDF troops and residents of Israel”.
The bill was passed in its first reading by a 45-42 vote. Three readings are required to pass into law.
The draft legislation is sponsored by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party and was approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation – meaning it enjoys the backing of the coalition government.
According to reports, the bill establishes penalties of up to five years in prison for anyone caught filming or publishing footage of military activities with the purpose of harming “soldiers’ spirit”, or morale.
So-called aggravating circumstances, such as publishing footage with the intention of “harming state security”, doubles the maximum jail time to 10 years.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, however, reportedly considers the legislation problematic, and it may undergo some changes before advancing to its final two readings.