C'tee Quashes Bill to Delay Journalists' Entry Into Politics

A bill to mandate a cooling-off period for senior journalists seeking to run for Knesset was essentially killed by the Knesset Constitution Committee yesterday.

The panel approved a motion by its chairman, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), to tell the sponsors they should ask the Israel Press Council to formulate ethical guidelines on the matter instead of proposing legislation.

Sponsors Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ) and Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud ) tried to defend the bill. "A journalist with political aspirations can't cover a prime minister or opposition leader objectively," Shama-Hacohen argued.

Tirosh said her impetus for the bill was an interview that then-journalist (and today MK ) Shelly Yachimovich gave to then-Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz. "A day after she gave him an expansive media platform, she joined his party," Tirosh complained. "That's a cynical abuse of the journalist's role, and we ought to put restrictions on it."

Rotem, however, blasted the bill. "You simply want to prevent media personalities from running for Knesset," he charged. "What would you do if Justin Bieber moved here and decided to run for Knesset? He has much greater influence than journalists do.

"Many rabbis also have great influence over large swathes of the population, but no one demands a cooling-off period for them," he added.

Daniel Ben Simon (Labor ), another journalist turned MK, concurred. "We ought to encourage people to become MKs, especially those with a background in public affairs who will work for the public's welfare," he said. "And in my view, journalists are such people."