The Be’er Sheva District Court will hear an appeal on Tuesday of a decision by a lower court to ban publication of the name of a man suspected of attempting to murder his wife in Mitzpeh Ramon. The appeal was filed by Haaretz and other media outlets, after the police said they could not find any legal means to allow them to appeal the decision, as they had intended, since there was no reason connected to the investigation to file an appeal.
However, investigative considerations are not the issue here. Shira Moshe, 31, was seriously injured in her home on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The police believe that her husband stabbed her with a knife and struck her with a rolling pin in front of their two-year-old son, whom they believe was a witness to the incident. Moreover, this couple was known to the police from a previous violent incident. This did not prevent the suspect from asking the court to bar his name from being published. “It’s the easiest thing to do, to ruin someone’s forty-five-year reputation and career,” the suspect said, playing the victim while also not forgetting to mention the ages of his elderly parents.
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Amazingly, the suspect found a sympathetic ear with Magistrates Court Judge George Amorai, who was not impressed by the fact that the real victim, the man’s wife, who is allowed to remain anonymous, agreed for her name to be published, so that “the whole country” would know what her husband had done to her. Even the fact that the police wanted to publish both their names did not persuade the judge. During the hearing, a police representative said the public had a right to know the suspect’s identity, and that publishing it may embolden other victims of domestic violence to step forward and file complaints. However, the suspect’s reputation carried more weight in the eyes of the judge. “At this point, publishing the suspect’s name will not contribute to consolidating and promoting the public interest,” wrote the judge.
The ruling is an unusual one for the justice system, which grants most gag orders at the request of investigative authorities, less so in response to request by suspects seeking privacy. Why did this suspect receive special consideration? Is his blood redder? Does the judge wish to open a dangerous wedge for similar requests so as to expand the growing circle of gag orders, rather than shrink it? The ruling harms the campaign against domestic violence and violence towards women, and amounts to another expression of a light finger on the trigger when it comes to gag orders.
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The ruling was subject to protests by women fed up at being abandoned by the courts, which are more concerned with the reputation of men than with the lives and bodies of women and children. One can only hope the appeal wins, since in an era of social media this issue is a lost cause – people opposed to the ruling have already posted the suspect’s name and photo online - but mainly because the ruling gives a distorted message from the justice system, as if it exists to protect the strong from the weak.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.