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Dershowitz to AG: Beware ‘a parade of horribles’

In a democracy, criticism of the relationship between media and government should be left to voters, not prosecutors
Alan Dershowitz, February 3, 2016 (John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu)
Alan Dershowitz, February 3, 2016 (John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu)

An open letter to the Attorney General of Israel,

According to press reports, you are about to charge the Prime Minister with charges relating to his relationships with the media. In my view, any such charges would, as I pointed out in the attached article, endanger democracy and freedom of the press. That is why I am writing this open letter. Such charges would open up a Pandora’s box out of which would flow a parade of horribles: Every government official — legislators, judges, prosecutors, police officers, administrators — who sought positive coverage with the media, and then did anything that helped the media would have to be investigated.

In the Yedioth Ahronoth matter, more than 40 Knesset and cabinet members voted in favor of the newspaper, while Prime Minister Netanyahu effectively killed the bill and went to elections. Many of the Knesset members then received positive coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth. Yet they were not investigated. Only the Prime Minister, who killed the bill, is being prosecuted. This disparity illustrates the enormous discretion prosecutors have in selectively prosecuting alleged violators of this open-ended prosecutorial tool.

There is no limiting principle to this open-ended intrusion of the criminal law into the delicate, and legally protected, relationship between government officials and the media.

Any such charge would give law enforcement far too much power to dictate to the media and to officials they cover how they relate to each other. In a democracy, criticism of the relationship between media and government should be left to voters, not prosecutors. I urge you, Mr. Attorney General, to consider the dangerous implications for democracy and freedom of the press if you go forward with these charges against the Prime Minister.

Respectfully,
Alan Dershowitz

Via Twitter

About the Author
Alan M. Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?"
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