A-G: 'Israel Hayom Bill' is Unconstitutional

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein tells ministers he will have difficulties defending bill to limit distribution of free newspapers.

Uzi Baruch ,

Israel Hayom
Israel Hayom
Miriam Alster, Flash 90

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein believes that the so-called “Israel Hayom Law” is unconstitutional.

That message was conveyed Sunday by Weinstein’s representative Orit Koren, who attended a discussion of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on the bill, in which it was decided to give coalition MKs freedom to vote as they see fit. According to Koren, in order to justify the bill, Weinstein would have to be convinced first that there is a threat to the print media, and that the measures stipulated in the law will help prevent it.

"We do not see how the bill is supported by factual evidence that there is damage to the Basic Law: Freedom of expression," Koren told the committee, adding that "If such a phenomenon is identified in the future, the Antitrust Commissioner shall examine it, and he has the authority to do so."

Under the bill, every newspaper which is defined as one of four daily newspapers with wide circulation will be required to be sold for a "nominal fee" - about 70% of the price of the most widely distributed and cheapest paper.

Israel Hayom, which began coming out in 2007, has become popular in Israel, mainly because it is handed out for free. It is owned by businessman Sheldon Adelson, who is considered close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and is highly supportive of him.

Nationalists note that the paper also tended to be soft on Netanyahu when he froze construction  in Judea and Samaria, released terrorist murderers, and demolished Jewish hilltop communities.

Critics say the paper fails the test of democratic journalism and serves the government in a way reminiscent of dictatorships, while operating at a large loss.

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett has gone so far as to slam the nationalist paper with the label "Pravda," in a reference to the official mouthpiece of the Soviet Union. Similar remarks were made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Both Bennett and Liberman are supportive of the bill, which was initiated by MK Eitan Cabel of the Labor party but was also signed by MK Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home. Some MKs within the coalition have said they oppose the bill, such as MK Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home), who said Sunday that he intends to oppose it.