Monday, July 11th, 2016
The Second Authority for Radio & Television (Channel 2)
Mr. Moshe Nussbaum
Mr. Guy Peleg
Mrs. Yonit Levy
Of the Neve Ilan Communication Center
D.N Harei Yehuda 90850
Via Email, fax: 02-533-9809
And registered mail
Re: Defamatory speech – a demand for an immediate retraction and apology
On behalf of my client, the esteemed Rabbi Eliezer Berland, I request your attention into the following matter:
- In a series of articles, broadcasts and promotional advertisements that you published and broadcast in a variety of media (television, print and online), you broadcast and advertised false, libelous, slanderous and malicious statements that did not contain a kernel of truth, and did so methodically, consistently, harmfully and disproportionately, like a targeted killing.
- Not only were these statements unrivaled in their falseness and maliciousness, they also severely damaged my client—to his good name and reputation, to his personal and family life, and to a great extent financially, due to the great losses he incurred as a result of the damage you caused.
- In these statements, you referred to my client using clearly offensive, false expressions such as “suspected of rape”, “escaped criminal”, “wanted”, “completely criminal behavior”, “making a mockery of the police”, and other such offensive expressions.
- These statements you made throughout the period of time that included articles published on April 3rd, 2013, April 4th, 2013, April 8th, 2013, May 7th, 2013, July 21st, 2013, November 5th, 2013, September 11th, 2014 and September 16th, 2014 destroyed my client’s good name and honor, as you labeled him a rapist, even though my client had never even been suspected of committing rape, and even though you were well aware that you had completely fabricated these allegations.
- Moreover, you brazenly dubbed my client an “escaped criminal” and ascribed information about a police investigation into my client at the time of your statement, although my client had never been summoned for questioning at that time, and had no knowledge of it until he heard about it later, from said statements.
- Moreover, you really went overboard when you tied my client to criminal elements in order to tarnish his reputation and shame him, without qualifying your speech to retain even a small measure of journalistic integrity or responsibility, thereby flagrantly violating the code of ethics to which you are bound.
- The false statements are especially severe considering that, at the time they were broadcast, you were well aware that the man you had interviewed on March 14th, 2013, who had made unprecedented allegations against my client, was none other than the man who confessed to shooting the home of one of the rabbi’s adherents, thereby committing a crime himself (as you were aware when broadcasting your statements). This man was later convicted for this crime. During the actual broadcast, in which you gave the interviewee sympathetic and extensive coverage, he was actually under house arrest—a fact that you intentionally hid from the public, along with other relevant details.
- Moreover, in that same broadcast, you aired an interview with the wife of said shooter, dubbing her the “chief complainant”, while hiding the fact that she is actually married to the shooter, and not simply a complainant who is unrelated to the other interviewee. In reality, you interviewed a couple in which the husband committed a crime related to my client, without revealing this fact. A reasonable viewer is led to believe that you interviewed two unrelated people, each with his own serious claims against my client, when in reality you interviewed a wife covering for her husband and trying to save his hide, in light of the crime he had confessed to. Most jarring fact you hid from the public, however, is that the complaint against my client stemmed from the investigation into the complainant’s husband’s shooting (and not sooner). Although you were well aware of this fact, you hid it in order to tarnish my client and create a more interesting “scoop” defaming him in a clearly biased piece rife with inaccuracies that went to the heart of the matter.
- In addition to the above and without detracting from it, it must be noted that, although your interviewee fabricated a story from his wild imagination about a naked woman who lay on top of the esteemed rabbi, you never once bothered to verify this information, even on the most basic level, as required before broadcasting such information. You never bothered to verify whether this had actually happened, even though you were broadcasting very harsh claims about someone well known and recognized in a strong community, which you knew would destroy his entire world in one fell swoop.
- All of the above and in the context of the string of misdeeds you perpetrated, which will be detailed below, constitute defamation and a violation of the rules of journalistic integrity the reflects upon a level of misconduct unworthy of your profession. You have trampled the rules of journalistic ethics when you strayed so far from any accuracy or reliability in transmitting information, as expected of any reasonable journalist. As if that were not enough, in this highly offensive broadcast, so clear-cut and so biased, one can certainly see your intent to sully my client’s good name and defame his character. The existence of any “public right to know” does not give the journalist a “green light” to make whatever statements he so chooses, and any reasonable journalist is obliged to carefully examine the news items he wishes to broadcast and ensure he does not make false vilifications.
- In light of these facts and proof in this matter, which cannot all be contained in this short document, but will be listed in detailed the appropriate time and place, it must be noted that the false statements publicized by you in a one-sided and tendentious manner clearly constitute malice and bad faith, contrary to the law and without taking the necessary and reasonable precautions. These serious statements destroyed and decimated the magnificent legacy and life’s work of my client, who was effectively tried and convicted in the court of public opinion—on television screens and print media—by your viewers and readers, before he was questioned and before any charges had been brought against him.
- It should be noted and emphasized that the details listed herein do not serve to indicate that any statements you made not listed herein were not false and defamatory.
- Due to the frequent, biased, and multiple news items, my client incurred significant damages in the millions of shekels (and my client is owed compensation for each publicized news item, including future news items, without further proof of damage, in accordance with the Law Against Defamatory Speech of 1965). My client reserves the right to make future claims against any and all parties for false and defamatory statements made about him, and this letter does not limit or detract from my client’s rights.
- Furthermore, and without detracting from the aforementioned in any way, you must immediately act to minimize the extent of the damage by publishing posthaste an apology from yourselves to my client for the false statements, inaccuracies and bias in presenting the issues, and the concealment of meaningful facts, and to print a retraction of your publicized statements.
- My client emphasizes and notes that the publicity in question by its very nature caused immense harm that will continue to grow if a denial, clarification and apology is not published. Also note that the failure to print such a clarification and apology will be seen as further evidence of your bad faith and malicious intent to sully my client’s good name.
- In light of the above, you are hereby afforded the opportunity to deny, clarify and apologize as necessary, in order to slightly rectify the damage and injustice you have done to my client. The extent of the correction, denial and apology will affect the claim against you.
- To be clear, neither the contents of this letter nor the lack thereof detract in any way from the rights and/or claims and/or demands to which my client is entitled under the law.
Michal Saar, Attorney-at-law