The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice this week as the broadcasting authority refused to overturn its ban on a public service announcement in support of same-sex marriage and speaking Arabic in Israel.
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ACRI made the move on Sunday, prior to the head of the Second Television and Radio Authority giving his backing to the decision not to broadcast the PSA due to its “controversial” statements.
Efrat Laor, head of the ad department in the authority’s television division, demanded in December that ACRI delete three sentences or partial sentences from a PSA on the grounds that they violated its ethics code (which forbid broadcasting ads “regarding controversial political, social, public or economic issues”). Broadcasting the one-minute ad was made conditional on deleting the phrases in question.
The problematic sentences were: “I have the right to choose and marry whomever I want,” spoken by Yityish Titi Aynaw, a former Miss Israel of Ethiopian descent; “Even if I’m gay,” stated by LGBT activist Adir Steiner; and “There is no honor, no freedom, no equality in a place that does not preserve human rights.”
The broadcast authority claimed that last sentence hinted that Israel does not put an emphasis on human rights.
The ad also depicted Israeli-Arab singer-actor Mira Awad calling for “the right to speak Arabic without fear.”
Authority CEO Nir Shveky informed ACRI legal adviser Dan Yakir by letter Wednesday that he backed the original decision.
Regarding the use of Awad’s quote, Shveky wrote, “The statement as is represents a controversial claim as reality, in violation of Rule 11 of the ethics rules.”
A source familiar with the situation said Shveky was ignoring the occasional violence Arabs experience in Israel for speaking Arabic.
Shveky also wrote that he was committed to disqualifying the reference to same-sex marriage because if he did approve it, he would then be obliged to broadcast an ad stating the opposite message.
In ACRI’s petition, its representatives argued: “The position that human rights and the defense of them in a democratic society are themselves controversial should not be accepted.
“The Second Authority is also unauthorized to make its own law and rule that issues which the High Court has already anchored as the acceptable norm are controversial, thus pushing back human rights in Israel,” it added.
Following the refusal to play the PSA in its original form, ACRI representatives met with Shveky. He told them that, contrary to what was claimed in the broadcast, Arabs in Israel have no problem speaking Arabic in public places. He added that he was “unaware of any problem on the subject, and that the broadcast is liable to create a problem in a place where it doesn’t exist.”
However, the broadcasting authority’s chairwoman, Eva Madjiboj, criticized the ban on her Facebook page.
“I have more than a few friends who are fighting for the right to love and get married as they wish,” she wrote. “As their friend, I fight with them. As chairwoman of the Second Television and Radio Authority, I will fight for their right to shout about it everywhere.”
Despite her declaration, Madjiboj failed to overturn the decision.