The decision by Knesset members from Likud and Kadima to once again debate a bill proposing a cooling-off period for journalists, which would force them to take six months off from that profession before going into politics, is foolish and unnecessary.
The bill, which was first submitted in 2010 as an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset, was dusted off the shelf because of the possibility of an early election. It is clearly intended to stop Channel 2 news anchorman Yair Lapid from founding a political party - an absurd and improper objective - and it rests on the shaky foundations of a distorted view of both journalism and politics, which is apparently being seen as a way to get good benefits instead of as public service.
All the same, the Second Television and Radio Authority has accepted the principle of a cooling-off period - the three-month period that is customary for journalists at the Israel Broadcasting Authority. If a cooling-off period must be implemented, that length of time should certainly suffice.
Despite what the bill states, the term "journalist" does not just refer to reporting the news, certainly not in this era of communication. The most prominent journalists fill a public role, and even a blatantly political one. They often express a resolute position to which they commit themselves, and so there is nothing more natural than the transition to politics that many journalists have already made - from Theodor Herzl to some of today's MKs.
What is particularly strange is the enthusiasm of MKs who promoted themselves with great skill on radio or television, like Tzipi Hotovely of Likud. In supporting the bill by arguing that the lack of a cooling-off period would result in the promotion of a political and party-based agenda during a broadcast, such MKs are essentially invalidating their own actions.
The principal of a cooling-off period is legitimate only for high-ranking civil servants who are planning to switch over to politics, since in that case they could exploit their authority before seeking office. Even then, the three-year cooling-off period for senior defense officials is excessive; it would be better to bring it back down to 100 days. No other country imposes a cooling-off period on journalists who want to go into politics, just as there is no such restriction for religious leaders, professors or actors. Politics needs talented people from every field.
MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), who heads the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has deferred the debate on the bill, for now. This bill should be rejected altogether, before the Knesset makes a mockery of itself yet again by passing legislation that purports to be based on an abstract principle, but is actually intended to impede a specific person.
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