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Former Israel reporter's first Bill as Likud MK could criminalise airing investigative recordings

An Israeli flag flies from the Kidmat Zion Israeli settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, where the Old City with its golden Dome of the Rock is seen in the background, August 18, 2008 in East Jerusalem, Palestine [David Silverman/Getty Image]
Israeli flag. [David Silverman/Getty Image]

A former newspaper editor and freshman lawmaker for the Likud Party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, submitted a Bill on Sunday, which could prevent journalists from publishing recordings of people without obtaining their consent, reported Haaretz.

According to Boaz Bismuth's first Bill as a lawmaker, sensitive information includes "data on the personality, intimate affairs, opinions and beliefs of a person."

The legislation has drawn widespread condemnation from media professionals who are concerned their work will be restricted, as the Bill calls for a jail sentence of up to five years for airing such recordings, which commonly form the basis of journalistic investigations on criminals and politicians.

Posting his proposal on Twitter, Bismuth wrote: "In the technological era we live in, any person can record a conversation with sensitive content and publish it. The law amendment will ensure that publishing such a recording counts as a severe violation of privacy."

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In the written explanation accompanying his Bill, Bismuth said the current law is problematic because "the technological ability to record conversations should be primarily used to preserve information for private purposes, not to publish them in a manner that could violate an individual's privacy."

In response, the Union of Journalists in Israel said it "rejects" the Bill, "which limits journalistic freedom and harms the general public."

In a statement, the Union wrote: "Part of our job is to publish recordings that often reveal what some parties would rather hide – from shady, corrupt deals, to crimes committed against the vulnerable: children, the elderly and other marginalised groups."

"Delegating the right to approve or disapprove of recording to the person recorded is a reward for corrupt people and swindlers. It is shocking and unbelievable that this is the first legislation Bill filed by someone who has been a senior Journalist and was the editor-in-chief of a high-circulation newspaper."

Bismuth, last year, stepped down as chief editor of Israel Hayom, an Israeli newspaper founded by late American Jewish billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, and widely considered as a pro-Netanyahu publication.

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