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June 29, 2009

Maariv Loses Libel Suit to Settlers

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Yet another false media report about the land status of a particular settlement has been exposed. The Israeli site Walla reported June 25 (CAMERA's translation):

Ma'ariv To Compensate Settlers With 20,000 Shekels

The newspaper must compensate 13 residents of the Maale Rehavam outpost after it published that it was founded on Palestinian land, even though it was founded on state land.

The Jerusalem court today ruled that Ma'ariv will soon compensate 13 residents of the Maale Rehavam outpost for 20,000 shekels and ruled that that the paper must print a correction or retraction within two weeks regarding the article that appeared May 16, 2006. The article claimed that the Maale Rehavam outpost was founded on private Palestinian land, while according to its plans it's founded on state lands. Following the publication of the article, 13 of the outpost's founders filed a slander suit, claiming that the article portrays them as thieves and criminals.

The article by then Ma'ariv reporter Ori Yavlonka dealt with six illegal outposts in Judea and Samaria that were on the verge of demolition. The article claimed that the outpost report by lawyer Talia Sasson maintained that Maale Rehavam was founded on private Palestinian land. A month later, following the evacuation of the residents the Ma'ariv-nrg Web site published another article that dealt entirely with the Maale Rehavam outpost, which stated that it was founded on state land. The residents were not satisfied by this article. Judge Yitzhak Milnov agreed with their claim in his ruling: "Whoever reads the article which was published on the Internet does not at all know that this article was meant to correct or clarify an erroneous article."

In the suit filed for the residents by attorney Eyal Simal Tov, the residents requested a published retraction and apology and compensation amounting to 7,750 shekels per residents -- some 100,000 shekels total.

In its defense Ma'ariv argued that there is a distinction between the outpost and its residents and claimed that an article on the settlement is not tantamount to an article on its residents. Judge Milnov ruled: "The distinction requested by the defendants between the outpost and its residents, with all due respect, is not acceptable. An article which reports on the illegal founding of any geographic settlement, also intrinsically incorporates a statement about the ethics of the people who established that very same settlement. . . The claim according to which the Ma'ale Rehavam outpost is founded on private Palestinian land is likely to cause a reasonable reader to think that the residents of the outpost are people that believe that the laws of the state do not apply to them, that they are making their own laws for themselves, and that they are ruling over lands that are not theirs."

Nevertheless, Judge Milnov ruled that the compensation demanded by the plaintiffs was too high and ruled that Ma'ariv will compensate the settlers 1,000 shekels [each] and will cover court costs totalling 5,000 shekels.

It is reprehensible that legal action -- as opposed to public and private appeals to fair play -- are required to get corrections on false reports about settlements, as in the case of Peace Now, which paid up to the residents of Revava for its false report.

Posted by TS at June 29, 2009 05:25 AM

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