A new bill to drastically raise the penalty for libel passed its first reading Monday in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
The measure would exponentially raise the court-imposed penalty for slander through the written word, without proof of loss.
Although Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit proposed raising the fine from its current NIS 50,000 fine to NIS 500,000 as a deterrent to what he called an increase in the incidence of libel.
Likud MK Yariv Levin proposed a somewhat lower penalty of NIS 300,000.
In either case, the fine would still be at least six times higher than the current penalty.
In addition, the bill would require the offending media outlet to publish a retraction, and the full response of the injured party. However, sources said this element of the bill may be deleted before the bill goes to its first reading in the Knesset plenum.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah earlier this year filed a $3.5 million libel suit against Channel 10 over the so-called “Bibi tours” allegations that claimed the prime minister pocketed extra money as a result of “double billing” for travel expenses.
In addition, Netanyahu has filed two libel suits, each for $1 million, against Channel 10 and the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Ma'ariv.
The suit against Channel 10 concerned a report aired by the channel about a 2005 document allegedly listing donors to one of Netanyahu's political campaigns.
The suit against the newspaper concerned a claim that the prime minister and his wife spent NIS 60,000 on a single meal, for which they were allegedly reimbursed by guests from abroad.