The B’Tselem human rights organization petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday against the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s decision not to air a radio advertisement listing the names and ages of several Gaza children who have been killed during Operation Protective Edge.
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The IBA had rejected the ad, which names five Palestinian children aged 2 to 10, saying it was politically controversial. IBA regulations allow it to refuse to air advertisements “on political or ideological issues that are controversial among the public.”
Attorneys Gilad Barnea and Hagai Kalai, who filed the petition, urged the court to hear it immediately, before it became irrelevant.
The petition – which opened with a quote from the poem by Zelda, “Every person has a name” – argued that the banning of the ad undermined freedom of political expression, which has been previously recognized as a constitutional right. Moreover, the petition said, the ad did not advance a political argument, but merely provided information about a number of children killed in Gaza and their names.
“The petitioner did not claim [in the broadcast] that responsibility for the deaths of the children lay with one side or the other; it did not point a finger of blame, nor did it argue that these things are meant to promote any specific policy,” the petition stated. “In effect, the position of the respondents [the IBA] – that simply stating the names of children who were killed points to the State of Israel’s responsibility for this – reveals their own perspective, and is not a conclusion necessarily derived from the content of the broadcast or its context.”
B’Tselem argues that this constitutes discrimination against it, in contrast to other organizations, such as the National Resilience Team, which calls for continuing the operation until an Israeli “victory,” whatever that concept might mean.
The petitioners complain that despite the importance of freedom of expression, which has been supported by a long line of High Court of Justice rulings, there remains a significant gap between those rulings and the conduct of the media. “The harsh reality these days raises moral, political and social challenges,” the petition states. “To cope with these challenges, the public must be exposed to true and accurate information in real time. This is the obligation of a public broadcasting authority, which is charged with giving the public the tools to formulate an opinion.”