Border policeman and Arutz 7 journalist
Border policeman and Arutz 7 journalistIsrael news photo

A Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has awarded Arutz 7 journalist Hezki Ezra $33,000 (125,000 shekels) plus nearly $4,000 in legal costs after Border Police did not contest claims they broke his camera and then spread false charges against him.

The libel suit stems from a protest last year at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, immediately south of Jerusalem, which Ezra was covering for Arutz 7. After he photographed policeman Tzion Sturliheel striking a protestor, the policeman broke Ezra’s camera, then took him into custody and held him for questioning.

Two hours later, the Border Police promised to compensate Ezra for the broken camera, and Sturliheel apologized to the journalist for acting improperly. Border Police commanders offered Ezra special privileges at Rachel’s Tomb in return for his not filing a complaint against them, an offer he rejected.

Ezra proceeded to file charges for the policeman’s actions and then discovered that Border Police spokesman Moshe Finzi told media that the journalist had taken advantage of his press credentials to participate in the protest and disturb the peace.

Yesha Human Rights attorney Benny Levin, arguing on Ezra’s behalf, told the court that Finzi’s lies damaged Ezra’s reputation and caused him pain and suffering. Evidence included a film of Sturliheel breaking Ezra’s camera and a recording of a telephone conversation in which Finzi admitted he lied because his superiors expected him to defend the Border Police “as if he was a lawyer.”

Levin told the court, “The statements of the defendant that were recorded show that his objective was to ridicule and disparage the plaintiff’s professional credentials in order to satisfy superiors."

In addition to the damages for libel, the court ordered Border Police to pay 14,562 shekels ($3,800) for court and legal costs.