Text size

A magistrate's court will decide today whether to remove the gag order imposed on the identity of one of seven suspected pedophiles, nabbed following a Channel 10 investigation last week.

The other suspects' identities have been exposed repeatedly by the media.

The law enables suspects and defendants to ask the court for a gag order on their identities and the charges against them. But few are aware of this right, says Rachel Toren, head of the criminal forum at the Israel Bar Association.

"You see people cover their faces without being aware that they can have the release of their picture and name banned," she says.

The court may issue a gag order on suspects' names and identifying details if it believes this could cause them serious damage and that this damage outweighs the public's need to know. The court may issue a gag order to protect the safety of a defendant, witness or anyone mentioned in the debate. It may also do so to prevent an infringement of privacy.

Gag orders on publishing defendants' names are much rarer than those on releasing suspects' names.

Attorney Zohar Barzilai, the representative of the defendant whose name was banned from publication, says the court weighs several issues before issuing a gag order on a defendant's name, including his family situation, criminal record, health and suicide risk. If the defendant is ultra-Orthodox, the release of his name could cause him and his wife and children to be ostracized.

The court also weighs the public's right to know and whether the release of the defendant or suspect's name could, for example, warn the public about a dangerous criminal.

"A gag order will only be issued if the damage in releasing the person's identity is extremely grave," he says.

Toren says the existing arrangement "is frequently ineffective because a person is either unaware of the right or his name has already been released, causing irrevocable damage."

Yaron Forer, the attorney of Eitan Rozin, who was charged with attempted rape and sexual harassment, says that "by the time I entered the picture it was already too late. The names had been released everywhere."

Toren adds: "Perhaps publication should be banned for at least several hours from the moment a person is arrested or questioned, so that he would have time to ask for a continuation of the gag order for reasons he would detail in court."