Court Clears Top Journalist of Libeling IDF Officer
The Supreme Court cleared Channel 2 investigative journalist Ilana Dayan of libel charges on Thursday.
The case was filed by Capt. R., an IDF officer who shot and killed a 14 year old Arab girl who approached an IDF outpost under his command near Rafiah on October 5, 2004. The incident took place at the peak of the terrorist guerrilla war against the IDF in Gaza, months before the IDF pullout.
The girl approached the outpost, which was in a closed military zone and out of bounds for civilians. She was carrying a bag that may have contained explosives, and an Arab sniper fired at IDF soldiers in the course of the incident.
Capt. R. was subsequently cleared of wrongdoing in a military court.
In her investigative program, Uvda, Dayan portrayed the incident in a way that made the IDF soldiers appear callous. She stated that the girl was walking toward her school, when in fact she was headed for the outpost, and the way to the local school goes in a completely different direction.
As visual accompaniment to the description of the incident, Uvda showed a sequence of video segments from home videos shot by the soldiers who served in the outpost that made it seem as if the soldiers fired at the girl and then began arguing over who would clean the machine gun.
That footage was not from the day of the incident, however. Another sequence made it seem as if the soldiers celebrated and raised a toast immediately after the death – when in fact it was from a Rosh Hashana celebration.
Dayan's segment was aired just as R. was about to stand trial for the incident in the military court.
The Jerusalem District Court found Dayan and Uvda's production firm guilty of libel and fined them NIS 300,000 in damages. The High Court overturned the ruling and cleared Dayan. The production firm was found to have libeled R. in its promotional segment for the program but the fine was reduced to 200,000 shekels.
Dayan is considered to be very close to Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who even granted her an exclusive personal interview, contrary to custom. She sided fiercely with Beinisch against then-Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, Beinisch's nemesis.