By June 30, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Committee of Inquiry Established, JTA, Jan. 18, 1982.

KnessetThe Cabinet today approved the terms of reference of a committee set up by the government to investigate the publication of the names of public figures and others who are suspected or accused of alleged wrong-doings before any charges are brought against them.

The committee, headed by former Supreme Court Judge David Bechor, is to follow guidelines drafted by Justice Minister Moshe Nissim. It was established as a result of media disclosures last week that Minister-Without-Portfolio Yitzhak Modai was under police investigation for allegedly accepting kickbacks on oil deals when he was Energy Minister in the previous Likud government. The police reported that they found no evidence incriminating Modai and the allegations were subsequently dismissed by the Attorney General.

But Modai said his name had been besmirched by the media reports and demanded an inquiry aimed at new legislation to establish standards of conduct for the media. The committee will not deal specifically with police conduct of such investigations but will study the problem of “leakers,” a hint that sources in the police establishment sometimes slip information to journalists about ongoing inquiries while they are still in the initial stage.

Nature of the Guidelines

The guidelines approved by the Cabinet require the committee to present its report and recommendations within two months. It is to “study the issue of the publication of names of persons against whom suspicions or allegations are raised” and “the publication of (details regarding) the pursuit of an investigation or inquiry before anyone has been charged in a court of law.”

The committee will also consider the problem of Knesset members “who misuse their immunity” to make false charges. In the case of Modai, it was Labor MK Yehuda Hashai who made the disclosure of a police investigation in the form of a parliamentary question to the Prime Minister. The media picked up the story and ran it on television newscasts.

In addition to Bechor, the committee consists of former Attorney General Gideon Hausner and former Knesset member Simcha Friedman, a member of the National Religious Party and a former member of the executive board of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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