Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lashon Ha-Ra and Newspapers

R. Eliezer Melamed is active with Arutz Sheva and is the rabbi of the weekly newspaper Be-Sheva (link). In one of his columns (13 Tammuz, 5765/ July 20, 2005), he responded to a question about the halakhic aspect of negative news stories. This column was reprinted in his book Revivim: Am, Eretz, Tzava, pp. 100-102.

R. Melamed begins by pointing out that lashon ha-ra is permissible when there is a constructive purpose (to'eles). There are two types of to'eles:
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  1. To prevent someone from entering a bad business deal or marrying someone inappropriate, in which case the least amount required should be said.
  2. To rebut an improper action so that others do not follow it. In this case, you have to be extremely clear about the action's impropriety and this cannot be done with minimal language. However, even here you must be honest and may not exaggerate.
R. Melamed quotes from the classic guide to the laws of lashon ha-ra, Chafetz Chaim (1:10:4), that if your intention is to distance people from an improper path, then this is considered a legitimate to'eles.

I believe that Zev Eleff had an article on this subject in a past issue of Beis Yitzchak.

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