State Comptroller Hiding 'Grave' Report About Netanyahu Media Meddling

The 2018 draft report includes damning testimony regarding political interference with television and radio regulators

Matanyahu Englman sworn in as Israel's state comptroller at the Knesset, July 1, 2019.
Emil Salman

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman is delaying the release of a special report dealing with the independence of regulatory bodies within the Communications Ministry.

Sources who have seen the report say it includes grave findings indicating the level of political interference with broadcasters in recent years, through regulatory bodies. The report, already signed by Englman’s predecessor, addresses the interference by the Cable and Satellite Authority and the Second Authority for Television and Radio.

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The final draft of the report was deposited for comment in June 2018, but the report remains buried. Army Radio reported Tuesday that the state comptroller is delaying the release of several signed reports because he wants to review them. This is the first time the issue of political influence has been reviewed.

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The draft report includes damning testimony regarding political interference with regulators, covering the period when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later Ayoub Kara held the position of communications minister, including events tied to Case 4000.

One of the sources familiar with the report said that it is “very grave” and attests to the continued meddling in the media, even after investigations into the prime minister were opened. The report discusses relations between Kara and Yifat Ben Hai Segev, the chairwoman of the Cable and Satellite Authority. Netanyahu is heard threatening to shut down the council because it had not approved Channel 20 broadcasting the news on recordings that Channel 13 revealed on Monday.

The State Comptroller’s Office said in a statement that Englman has dedicated his two months since taking office to study in depth the office’s work, including “reports that were in different stages of writing, to adapt them to reforms developing within the office and to conduct additional checks where necessary.”

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit issued a special announcement Tuesday that detailed Netanyahu’s various conflicts of interest. According to Mendelblit, an arrangement was signed with Netanyahu that forbade him from dealing with matters regarding Shaul Elovich and Bezeq. After the opening of the investigations against him, Netanyahu resigned as communications minister.

The attorney general directed that as prime minister he was permitted to be involved in communications-related matters, but not on issues that would affect people with whom he had friendly relations, and that he had to consult with the attorney general on every matter that would arise. Apparently, he was not prohibited from dealing with matters related to Channel 20, but he was forbidden from dealing with matters regarding channels 2 and 10.