Press Council to Discuss Cooling-off Period for Journalists

The bill's sponsors deny persistent speculation that the bill is meant to block newscaster and columnist Yair Lapid, rumored to be considering a Knesset bid.

The Israel Press Council will discuss the idea of imposing a cooling-off period on journalists who run for Knesset at its meeting early next month, council Secretary General Arik Becher informed Knesset Constitution Committee chairman David Rotem yesterday.

The council's decision stems from a compromise that Rotem brokered last month over a bill to require journalists who wish to run for parliament to resign their media jobs six to 12 months before the election. Rotem proposed that the Press Council formulate ethical guidelines on the matter instead.

Yair Lapid
David Bachar

The bill's sponsors, MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ) and Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud ), have both denied persistent speculation that the bill was meant to block newscaster and columnist Yair Lapid, who is rumored to be considering a Knesset bid.

Tirosh told last month's committee session that the bill was inspired by an incident in which Amir Peretz, then chairman of the Labor Party, gave an extensive interview to journalist Shelly Yachimovich - who joined his party the next day. Shama-Hacohen said a journalist with political aspirations could not objectively cover a prime minister or opposition leader.

Rotem, however, accused the sponsors of wanting "to prevent media personalities from running for Knesset." He said the bill would severely infringe on the democratic process and a person's right to be elected, and noted that the law already restricts media appearances by parliamentary candidates in the two months before an election. He thus proposed appealing to the Press Council instead.

The meeting was attended by several MKs who had worked as journalists before getting elected, including Yachimovich and Daniel Ben Simon (Labor ), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ), Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi ), Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ) and Nino Abesadze (Kadima ).