Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Av 5768 - August 7, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Kol Korei Notices from Gedolei Yisroel Not Considered Campaign Contributions

By Eliezer Rauchberger

The Knesset Constitution Committee decided that articles and op-eds printed in newspapers before elections and calling on readers to support a certain party, and public notices issued by gedolei Torah — "kol korei" — should not be considered contributions to the party with a monetary value.

In reports he submitted following the last Knesset election, the State Comptroller said he would consider defining certain contents published in the religious press as party contributions, a reference to notices from gedolei Torah instructing chareidi constituents to vote for a certain party.

The Party Funding Law sets a ceiling on party funding and determines what should be considered a contribution to a party, granting the State Comptroller the authority to define what constitutes a contribution.

Following the report's release, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni called for a meeting to discuss the issue in the Knesset Constitution Committee to debunk the notion that op-eds constitute a monetary contribution. The meeting focused on Yated Ne'eman, Hamodia and other religious newspapers.

The State Comptroller's representative, Shmuel Golan, claimed that the notices placed in the religious press have the look of political ads. He said the acid test is not whether payment was made for the notices, but rather the benefit the party accrues from the notice. Golan argued that the articles in the religious press do not reflect the value of freedom of expression because these newspapers do not offer opportunities for other opinions to be heard.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who initiated the meeting, said that a religious newspaper is obligated to publish the opinion of gedolei Torah before the elections. He also noted every newspaper endorses one candidate or another, yet that does not seem to bother anyone — including the State Comptroller — and it is all done in the name of freedom of expression. But somehow when it comes to the religious press writing in support of a religious party, freedom of expression suddenly disappears.

Rabbi Yaakov Labin, managing director of Yated Ne'eman, explained at the meeting that just as every newspaper writes about matters of interest to its readers, so too Yated Ne'eman writes about matters that are of interest and importance to its readers, who want to know what gedolei Torah have to say before the elections and want to read the kol korei they issue. "There are some newspapers whose readers want to see a picture of a space shuttle," said Rabbi Labin, "and we're a newspaper that brings an image of the krias kodesh of gedolei Torah, because that's what interests our readers."

Constitution Committee Chairman MK Menachem Ben Sasson (Kadima) said that the discussion applies to the whole press and not just religious newspapers. He supported the notion that freedom of expression entitles a newspaper to print articles and publish the krias kodesh issued by rabbonim without it being considered a campaign contribution to the party the newspaper endorses in the article.

He summarized the meeting with the following directive to the State Comptroller: "The Constitution Committee holds that in general it is inappropriate to define op-ed and other newspaper articles as contributions to the party. The same also applies in the case of regular columns dedicated to the election campaign, even if they contain a clear appeal to support a certain party."


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