Israeli High Court Bans Documentary About 2008 Murder of 4-year-old Girl

Court rules that the privacy of Rose Pizem's family overrides the freedom of expression and the public’s right to know, and can only be aired once the victim's sisters turn 18.

A memorial for Rose Pizem, 2009.
Moti Kimchi

A documentary series about the 2008 murder of 4-year-old Rose Pizem can only be aired once the victim’s sisters reach the age of 18, the High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.

In its judgement, which came in response to a petition by the Broadcasting Authority, the court ruled that the privacy of the family and Rose’s sisters overrides the freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. The ruling will effectively prevent the airing of the series “Rose,” directed by Dror Moreh, for the next nine years.

Broadcasting Authority sources criticized the court’s decision as a violation of free speech. Many details of the murder which surfaced during the investigation had already reached the media, they argued. However, the authority said it would abide by the court’s decision.

The High Court’s ruling upheld a decision by the Lod District Court, which overturned its original decision that the series could be aired at the request of Marie Pizem, now serving time for her role in the murder of her daughter, who argued that airing the series would violate the family’s privacy. Welfare services and state prosecutors also interceded with the court.

Moreh’s “Rose” consists of six episodes covering the events surrounding the girl’s murder. The series includes interviews and filmed court sessions, as well as a reconstruction of the murder by Pizem’s grandfather, Ronny Ron.

Moreh previously made the acclaimed series “The Gatekeepers,” in which he interviewed former heads of Israel’s internal security service.

“It appears that this decision by the High Court continues to adhere to the line that a documentary is dangerous for democracy,” Moreh told Haaretz on Tuesday.

In contrast to other documentaries that have criticized prosecutors and the courts, “‘Rose’ demonstrates the very thorough work done by all law enforcement agencies,” Moreh said. “It doesn’t reveal any missteps by the system but attempts to show how apparently normal people end up killing a four-year-old girl.”

He added that the series might be re-edited so that it could be broadcast soon. “The moment I received the investigative material from all the agencies involved in the case I realized that this was very powerful material. The series is based mainly on investigative material and interviews. It will take a lot of work to produce something new without this material.”

On Monday, Moreh criticized State Prosecutor Shay Nitzan, for attacking “A Shadow of Truth,” a documentary dealing with the 2006 murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada.