Proposed law sends healthy message
Israel’s trouble with the media has long plagued the country with what many call a “PR War,” meaning that the message the country wishes to get out is oft mangled by the press, and thereby delivered half-baked or flat out wrong to the public.
But in another aspect of media, Israel is really getting things right.
This week, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs allowed the proposal of a law that would, in effect, keep images of unhealthily thin models from reaching the public.
The bill was created by Rachel Adatto, Kadima Party lawmaker and doctor specializing in young women’s health issues, and co-submitted with Adi Barkan, head of the Israeli Center for Changing Eating Habits. If passed, underweight models would be kept out of commercials and could not be employed by modeling agencies. Airbrushed images of the models, which often make them look even thinner, would be illegal without (as suggested by the committee) identifying them as such.
Adatto went so far as to designate a specific body mass index figure — 18.5 — which would be the cutoff for which models could not fall below. The punishment for breaking the law would be severe, including individual fines of nearly $20,000 and fines on campaigns of nearly $60,000.
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t support a law that, in effect, regulates the rights of advertisers and the media. But this isn’t censorship that tampers with important information — like we saw last week when Reuters cropped a photo from the Mavi Marmara to leave out an “activist” who was holding a knife. Rather, this is censorship that sends an inarguably positive message to an increasingly vulnerable public.
We hear stories all the time about young, impressionable teenagers driven to eating disorders and sometimes death because they feel pressure, largely due to media images of thin, beautiful models, to conform. And maybe more than anyone, this law would benefit the models themselves; it was only three years ago that Israeli model Hila Elmalich died of anorexia, weighing only 60 pounds.
Adatto’s law would send a healthy message to the Israeli public. It’s a message we could use on this side of the world as well.