JERUSALEM -- Israel's parliament has passed the first reading of a bill that critics say could muzzle the country's media if it becomes law. The "defamation bill" passed 42-31 late Monday after a heated debate in parliament. It would need to pass another two readings to become law.
The bill would make it much easier for journalists to be sued. It significantly increases the amount that reporters can be demanded to pay in fines, without proof of damages . Supporters of the bill say it encourages accountability in the media.
Nahman Shai, a former reporter turned parliamentarian, called it "a bad bill" that would silence the media and hinder the public's right to know. Critics say it is the latest of several pieces of legislation intended to stifle dissent.