Law Would Force Newspapers to Allow Response From Subjects

Proposal will obligate editors to make space for response.

A government committee will discuss a law today requiring newspaper editors to allow subjects in articles to respond to accusations against them, by pain of a hefty fine. The law, to be mulled by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, would force editors to give subjects enough time to respond and give a "reasonable" amount of space for the response alongside the article.

Even in cases where the subject was unreachable and the story was printed without a response, the law would allow the subject to seek relief by making the editor print the response after the fact, though the response may be edited for conciseness and clarity.

According to the bill, a newspaper editor who violates these rules would be fined 13,000 shekels.

The initiator of the bill, MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima ), said he "believes the bill finds the appropriate balance between freedom of expression and of the press and the public's right to know, protection of the individual, his dignity and his good name."

The bills composers wrote, "Freedom of expression demands granting every person who is besmirched by a report or newspaper article a platform from which to respond."

The explanation of the bill cited examples of anchoring the right to respond in legislation in numerous countries in Europe.

Yoel Hasson (Tomer Appelbaum)
Tomer Appelbaum

In France, the right to respond was written into law in 1822, when legislation went into effect requiring a prominent place to respond be granted not only to the government but also to common people.

In 1881, the French press law again stipulated that a newspaper must grant a citizen the right to respond within a short time, not only to correct incorrect facts, but also to present their side of the story.

The size of the response was also determined to match the original report, but no more than 200 words.

According to the French law, during an election campaign, when the publication has a critical impact on public concerns, the response must be printed within a day, provided that the material arrives at least six hours before the paper goes to press.