The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court issued a ruling on Tuesday ordering the Yediot Aharonot newspaper and journalist Sima Kadmon to pay the pro-Israel watchdog Im Tirtzu and its spokesperson NIS 105,000 ($30,000) in libel damages and NIS 20,000 ($6,000) in legal fees.
Im Tirtzu filed a libel suit against the popular newspaper in 2017 following two publications by the newspaper that falsely accused Im Tirtzu of falsifying a letter signed by 28 families from the Choosing Life Forum of Bereaved Families.
One of the articles, written by senior journalist Sima Kadmon, named Im Tirtzu's spokesperson and accused him personally of fabricating the letter.
The bereaved families penned a letter to then Culture Minister Miri Regev in protest over Megiddo, a government-funded documentary that focused on Palestinian Arab terrorists serving sentences at the Megiddo Prison. The letter was subsequently relayed to the media by Im Tirtzu, which accompanies the Choosing Life Forum.
In two separate articles, Yediot Aharonot writers Sima Kadmon and Raz Shechnik accused Im Tirtzu of fabricating the letter and refused to issue a retraction despite Im Tirtzu's insistence that the bereaved families wrote the letter.
In the court's verdict, Judge Ronit Pinchuk-Alt criticized Yediot Aharonot for the false publications.
"[The evidence] leads to an unequivocal conclusion that these were defamatory publications, which were intended to humiliate the claimant in the eyes of the people, and to make them the subject of hate, contempt or ridicule, and to disgrace them and even harm the career of Mr. Tenne."
Judge Pinchuk-Alt chastised senior Yediot Aharonot journalist Sima Kadmon: "A veteran journalist failed in that she published facts without contacting those who would be hurt by the publication, and if she would've contacted them for a reply, she would have discovered the things that she missed."
Judge Pinchuk-Alt also reprimanded Yediot Aharonot journalist Raz Shechnik: "Mr. Shechnik did not do the most basic things in these circumstances, which is contacting 'Im Tirtzu' and its spokesperson and asking for their reply before publishing the article. This is a basic and minimal action that the Yediot Aharonot had to do in order to claim good faith."
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg welcomed the verdict and said that "every media outlet needs to know that adhering to the truth is one of the most important aspects of a democratic state."
"Im Tirtzu will continue to accompany the Choosing Life Forum of Bereaved Families in their fight against terrorism," added Peleg.
Attorney Guy Tsabary who represented Im Tirtzu said: "The court issued a clear message that freedom of speech cannot be used as an excuse to publish false information. The practice of publishing information without first requesting a response from those affected is a condemnable phenomenon that must be uprooted."