Avi Nir, the CEO of Channel 2 television's Keshet franchisee, remained in the hospital yesterday after being assaulted by unknown assailants near his north Tel Aviv home on Monday.

In the five years since Nir took over the helm at Keshet the company has pulled far ahead of its competitors, partly thanks to its highly competitive attitude. The assumption at the firm is that the motive for the assault is linked to one of Keshet's investigative programs, whether already broadcast or in production.

"Avi is admired, loved and respected at the company and we are all searching for a clue .... When the attackers approached they said, 'We know you, you're Avi Nir, the CEO of Keshet.' The logical context in this case is the professional one," said Tali Goren, a Keshet vice president.

"It's clear that everyone is worried and some are frightened about what happened here," a Keshet executive added. "From how it happened it's pretty clear to us that it's connected to work, there's no other obvious explanation. It's not the act of a crazy person because there were two people, and people are scared. Today I heard employees asking whether there was security."

Nir's injuries were described as mild to moderate, with severe bruising and some broken bones. He is not expected to be discharged today from Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital.

Nir was walking his dog near his home in Ramat Hahayal on Monday evening when two unidentified men approached and asked if he was "Avi Nir, the CEO of Keshet." When he said yes, they beat him with clubs. Nir was taken to hospital by ambulance.

The Yarkon District Police are investigating the incident.

In an e-mail he sent to Keshet employees yesterday morning, Nir wrote: "Shalom my friends, this is your reporter at Ichilov Hospital, reporting that it's unpleasant here and even painful. But there's a view from the window and it's so clear you can see all the way to Ramat Hahayal. I miss you all and thank you for your greetings and concern, Avi Nir."

At Keshet headquarters in Ramat Hahayal, Nir's name was on everyone's lips, from the kitchenettes to the fourth-floor offices. Nir, 47, rarely misses a day of work.

Keshet produces the long-running investigative program "Fact," and a second investigative program, with journalist Orly Vilnai, is in the works.

"I don't believe there's a connection between the reportorial work being done at Keshet and the attack. I don't want to believe it's possible. What is clear is that none of us will be deterred from continuing our journalistic work, and I have no doubt that it will be with the full support of Avi, just as it has been up to now," Vilnai said.

Keshet president Alex Giladi said in response to the assault: "The time has come to end the wave of violence that [has] reached the pillar of the Israeli media. This was a mortal blow to a central foundation of Israeli democracy - the media, which is reflected in the CEO of Israel's most important broadcast concessionaire," Giladi said.