Amid Claims of Secret Dealing With Netanyahu, Readers Seek Class Action Against Israeli Daily

Lawyers ask for 200 million shekels in damages from newspaper for misleading readers.

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Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes.
If Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes thinks that because his newspaper is 'the country’s paper,' the logical corollary is that Israel is 'the paper’s state.'Credit: Moti Kimche

As Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes was questioned by police on Sunday for his alleged negotations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lawyers representing readers of the Hebrew daily asked the Lod District Court to approve a 200- million-shekel ($52 million) class action.

The action was filed on behalf of Yedioth subscriber Noam Zitzman.

Yedioth Ahronoth represented itself as selling news that objective and impartial whose editorials considerations were fundamentally businesslike,” the suit asserted. “That is how customers saw it and for this reason they bought the newspaper. Readers opened the newspaper they bought morning after morning in the belief that what they saw in the newspaper, and especially in the news sections, was true.

The Yedioth Ahronoth offices in Rishon Letzion, January 11, 2017.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

“Naturally the content shaped his view of the world, influenced his mood and helped shape his views on issues on the agenda,” the suit claimed.

Tapes of alleged conversations between Mozes and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu show that the two sought to make a trade-off: Yediot would moderate its traditionally hostile coverage of the prime minister in exchange for which Netanyahu would back legislation that would have undermined the newspaper’s strongest competitor, the free daily Israel Hayom.

The deal was never enacted, but recordings of the conversations surfaced last week, exposing both Netanyahu and Mozes to possible charges of bribery.

The class action request seeks damage payments to readers, saying the newspaper failed its contractual obligations to readers and acted irresponsibly. It asks the court to demand that the closely held Yedioth Ahronoth group, which also includes the Ynet news website and other media properties, disclose sales details so that the plaintiffs can accurately measure how much it benefited.

The Yedioth group declined to comment on the suit.