As increasing details of the secret talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth Arnon Mozes are revealed, the more the public in Israel learns of the extent to which reality was distorted by leading national media outlets.
- Details of bribery deal Netanyahu negotiated with media mogul revealed
- Netanyahu’s tape scandal: Israel's government as protection racket
- Readers of Israeli press should know: This isn’t reality
In the case of Israel Hayom, this is but a confirmation of what has been known all along – this is a mouthpiece for Netanyahu. In the case of Yedioth Ahronoth it seems that what posed as a newspaper was in fact something quite different.
The separation between commercial and editorial considerations in the media is the only guarantee of courageous and unbiased journalism, the kind that portrays reality without neglecting, concealing or systematically distorting facts.
If the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth and its senior journalists believed that Netanyahu was a bad prime minister for Israel – which was the impression one got from the stories reported in this newspaper in recent years – it’s shocking to discover that the publisher was willing to “sell” its editorial approach for commercial benefits, in exchange for Netanyahu’s promises to restrain the “invasion” of Israel Hayom into the local newspaper market.
Given the power and influence of Yedioth Ahronoth, which was a monopoly before Israel Hayom arrived on the scene and which still remains very influential even with the new competition, the disclosure of these details constitutes an earthquake in terms of the public’s confidence in the media. The willingness to lend the services of an influential newspaper to a reigning prime minister in order to retain a portion of the market is a seminal event in this country’s history.
The depth of Netanyahu’s obsession with the media, reflected as the tip of the iceberg revealed by these secret conversations, should concern anyone who cherishes the rule of democracy. The public already knew that Netanyahu was adamant about keeping the communications portfolio and maintaining a veto right on any decision related to the media. It was clear that he was creating ambiguity regarding the fate of public broadcasting, making it subject to his beneficence. It knew that he was trying to intimidate TV Channel 10 and the franchisees of Channel 2.
Now it turns out that he was also trying to maneuver between the two largest newspapers in the country, waging some sort of pricing war, in which the side making a better offer in terms of support and praise for the leader gets to dominate the market.
All this came out after only a very partial revelation of what was said in conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes. The public deserves a full disclosure, not only in order to understand that this was an attempt at bribery which must be addressed in a court of law, but because it deserves to know how some of the largest media outlets in Israel conduct themselves. These media shape reality for the public and their improper conduct damages the heart and soul of democracy.