TV news, reporter ordered to compensate minister for defamation
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TV news, reporter ordered to compensate minister for defamation

Channel 13 and journalist Sefi Ovadia say they will appeal NIS 150,000 ruling over 2015 reports on how Miri Regev hired PR company without a tender

Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who lowered her face mask to speak, during a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on July 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who lowered her face mask to speak, during a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on July 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Jerusalem District Court ordered Channel 13 news and its journalist Sefi Ovadia to compensate Transportation Minister Miri Regev for having claimed several years ago that she had a personal connection to the head of a public relations company hired for a ministerial campaign.

In a Sunday ruling, the court ordered the station and journalist to pay Regev NIS 100,000 ($29,400) compensation and a further NIS 50,000 ($14,700) to cover her legal fees.

Regev had sued the station over reports from August 2015, when she was culture and sports minister. Ovadia reported that Regev hired the PR firm TBWA Yehoshua, headed by Rami Yehoshua, without the required open public tender, and that Yehoshua’s personal acquaintance with the minister was the reason he got the job, worth millions of shekels. Regev denies she had any prior connection with Yehoshua.

The court ruled that a proper journalistic investigation was not carried out and the parties involved were not given a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations in the reports.

Screen capture from video of Channel 13 reporter Sefi Ovadia. (YouTube)

“The campaign of blackmail and defamation, and the false and wild attack by Sefi Ovadia and Channel 13 News, ends with a decisive verdict and compensation of NIS 150,000,” Regev wrote in a statement posted to her Facebook page.

“I believe that criticism and freedom of the press are important and constitute fundamental principles in a democratic regime, but freedom of the press is not the freedom to slander and publish baseless lies,” she added.

Channel 13 and Ovadia responded in a statement that they would appeal the decision.

“Due to the principles of the matter, and the fear of its broader impact on freedom of the press in Israel, we are preparing to soon request the right to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court — and we are sure that justice will be served there,” the statement said.

Last year, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejected a NIS 1 million ($294,000) lawsuit by Regev against Channel 13 and Ovadia over the matter and ordered her to pay NIS 25,000 compensation to the station. Regev then appealed the ruling at the district court.

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