Haaretz Editorial

Netanyahu Is Trying to Stifle Criticism of the Government

The Israel Broadcasting Authority has been managed in recent months by people identified with the government.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority's leadership has decided that journalist Keren Neubach's current affairs program on Israel Radio, "Seder Yom" ("Agenda" ), will now feature guest coanchors. The program, broadcast daily between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M., enjoys high ratings (8.2 percent in the first hour, 7.5 percent in the second ). In 2009, Neubach received an award for best radio current affairs program.

It is the prerogative of the IBA's leadership to make professional changes in programming under its aegis. However, in the case of "Seder Yom," suspicions arise as to their motives. In November 2011, Neubach was bumped from her position as anchor for Channel 1's investigative TV journalism program "Mabat Sheni" ("Second Look" ) and, almost simultaneously, the editor of her program was summoned for a pretermination hearing.

As an anchor Neubach is tough, assertive and frequently critical of the government. The IBA has been managed in recent months by people identified with the government. The authority's chairman, Dr. Amir Gilat, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former spokesman; the director general, Yoni Ben Menachem, and head of Israel Radio, Michael Miro, were Netanyahu's preferred candidates for their jobs; and the prime minister is the minister responsible for the authority. Placing limitations on Neubach seem to be another attempt by the prime minister to take control of an island of independence in the sphere of public broadcasting.

Neubach frequently deals with social issues that were at the heart of last summer's protests. Miro expressed his opinion of the protest during his radio program "Yoman Ezrachi" ("Citizen's Diary" ) a few months ago: "The interest is not a public one, but rather of a few people leading [the protest] from above. They are making a propaganda machine here."

Neubach is not the only example of this attempt to muzzle criticism. When Miro assumed his current position in July 2011, he instructed current affairs anchors not to broadcast editorial statements at the start of their shows. Three months ago, Anat Davidov - the anchor of Israel Radio's Friday midday current affairs program - was told to stop broadcasting editorial statements on her shows.

This morning, Neubach is to coanchor her show with journalist Menachem Ben, who was fired from two media outlets (the TV magazine Rating and the Channel 2 television franchisee Keshet ) after arguing in favor of considering anti-gay legislation. Is that what the Israel Broadcasting Authority intended when it said the goal of the change was to "make broadcasts more varied and interesting"?