Policy Statement

Legal Opinion on the Israel Hayom Law

On November 12, 2014, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler submitted a legal opinion to the Knesset, the Knesset Committee, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee opposing the "Law for the Advancement and Protection of Print Journalism in Israel," known as the "Israel Hayom Law." A summary of this legal opinion follows.

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Background: The "Law for the Advancement and Protection of Print Journalism," which was proposed by MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) and sponsored by members of five other Knesset parties, would make it illegal to distribute a newspaper free of charge if it is a full-sized paper that is published six days a week. While the law's stated intention is to protect Israel's newspapers during a time of economic hardship for the printed press, the law is known as "The Israel Hayom Law" because that is the only Hebrew daily that meets its specific requirement. Israel Hayom is owned by businessman Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is seen as promoting the Prime Minister and his policies; as such, the proposed legislation is understood as an attempt to curb the newspaper's influence. 

Summary of the Legal Opinion

We oppose the proposed "Law for the Advancement and Protection of Print Journalism in Israel."

  1. The bill is a personal bill that severely violates freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The proposed legislation directly targets one particular newspaper: Israel Hayom. The involvement of Knesset members and politicians in expressly regulating a specific news outlet impinges on the right of freedom of expression and the press, and is a threat to democracy. Anyone who enthusiastically supports this regulatory law today should be concerned that a similar law may be put forward tomorrow that is not to their liking.
  2. The bill does not address the main problem that Israel Hayom is creating in the newspaper market: namely, that it is driving down the price of advertising. The problem is not that Israel Hayom is distributed for free. The problem is the cost of ads, which are as much as three times lower in Israel Hayom than in Yedioth Ahronoth. This phenomenon is not mentioned at all in the proposed law, despite its tenfold impact on the newspaper market that the bill seeks to assist. In this respect, if we seek to solve the distortions in the newspaper market that may result from the current situation, we must:
    • Address the centralized structure of the entire advertising market in Israel.
    • Enforce existing competition laws.
    • Prohibit offers to sell advertisements or editions to the state and its agencies at below-cost prices or free of charge.
    • Amend Israel's Antitrust Law by adding a section that will address the processes of concentration in the media industry.

  3. The bill reflects an outdated view of the newspaper market. The proposed legislation prohibits the distribution of printed newspapers free of charge in an era in which most of our news consumption is via the Internet. Tomorrow a cost-free news site could be launched that could become the leading site in Israel thanks to a disproportionate injection of money from someone with deep pockets, without any business model. Would the Knesset also seek to enact a law against the Internet? And if so, how would it define the relevant market?

  4. We demand transparency of interests and “native advertising,” and call upon the State Comptroller to intervene.
    • There must be transparency and full disclosure of economic and political interests underlying press coverage. This includes both general disclosure and the need to deal with branded content that is being published in order to promote a political agenda, the achievements of a government ministry, or a particular member of Knesset, without disclosure that it is sponsored content.

      In addition, we should encourage the critical consumption of media.
    • We call upon the State Comptroller to issue an opinion or statement whether a situation in which a wealthy person funnels money to a media outlet without a business model, with the aim of supporting a particular political candidate whose identity is clear, constitutes a violation of Israel's election financing laws.

Read the full legal opinion (Hebrew)