Ministers Delay Talks on 'Rona Ramon Law'

The ministers said they would revisit the issue in three weeks after receiving input on the proposal from the Israel Press Council.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation postponed a discussion Sunday on a new law that would curtail media access to bereaved relatives after the death of a loved one in the line of military duty.

Rona Ramon
Tess Sceflan

The ministers said they would revisit the issue in three weeks after receiving input on the proposal from the Israel Press Council.

The bill has been nicknamed by the media "the Rona Ramon Law" after the widow of fallen astronaut Ilan Ramon and the mother of Asaf Ramon, the air force pilot who died in a training accident last year. It was co-sponsored by Kadima MK Shai Hermesh and Likud MK Carmel Shama.

Should the bill become law, media members would be barred from contacting immediate relatives of Israelis killed while in service of the security forces or victims of terrorist attacks. Journalists would be legally prohibited from approaching the relatives within a distance of 200 meters in the 30 minutes after they received the news of the death.

In addition, journalists are forbidden from publishing a photograph of bereaved relatives for up to 48 hours after the death unless authorization is given in writing. Any media member that violates the law would face a maximum penalty of one month in jail and a fine of NIS 300,000.

"I don't think the Press Council will succeed in doing in three weeks what it has refrained from doing for years," Hermesh said. "In any event, this is an organization that has no teeth nor does it have any enforcement capability. The major media entities in this country are not even members of it. Postponing the vote is the oldest trick in the book."

Hermesh said he plans on enlisting the support of a majority of legislators in both the coalition and opposition to push the bill through. "It's sad that in the contemporary Israeli reality, nothing is sacred," he said. "Not even the obligation we have toward families who lost their loved ones for the sake of our security."

Last week Rona Ramon waged a campaign to generate support for the bill. In a letter she delivered to Hermesh, whose contents were first revealed by Haaretz, Ramon recalled how she learned of her son's death through press reports just before a throng of reporters arrived at her home a short time after the tragedy.

"One hour after the accident, an unusual bustle began to surround my house," she wrote. "I received unclear text messages on the phone. While I tried to decipher the meaning of what was happening, I noticed a gaggle of photographers and journalists in front of the house. It goes without saying this display was horrifying and worrying."