Editor Claims He Was Fired for His Investigative Reporting

Nir Bachar, until recently the editor of the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth's weekend supplement "7 Days," has petitioned the Tel Aviv Labor Court against his dismissal from his job.

Judge Shmuel Tenenboim issued a temporary injunction against appointing a permanent replacement for Bachar until the petition is settled. Both parties are to be present for a hearing, scheduled for January 19, and there is evidence that something is going on behind the scenes at Yedioth Ahronoth.

"Ever since the appointment of [Rafi] Ginat as editor," states Bachar in the affidavit attached to the petition, "Ginat has repeatedly criticized the investigative reports published [in the supplement] that delve into the connections between money and government."

Ginat fired Bachar from Yedioth Ahronoth two weeks ago. There had been tensions between the two, and Ginat suspected Bachar had leaked to Haaretz that Ginat had pressured him not to publish an article on former Israel Electric Corp. chairman Eli Landau. The article was ultimately published in "7 Days," and it led to a criminal investigation against Landau and the cancellation of plans to appoint him chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

Bachar's affidavit includes a detailed account of the events preceding his dismissal. According to the affidavit, Ginat telephoned Bachar in July 2005, prior to the planned publication of the article on Landau, and told him that it was a terrible article. Bachar then met with Ginat, who told him that even if Landau had lied a number of times during questioning by the police, "that's not a story." Ginat argued that there was nothing wrong with Landau's behavior, that no crime had been committed, and that he was therefore not approving the article for publication.

Ginat accused Bachar of trying to sabotage Landau's appointment as chairman of the IBA, Bachar writes in the affidavit.

"I objected to that contention, and stressed that since the article dealt with the controversial behavior of a public figure, it was appropriate for the newspaper to present the public with the information in its possession prior to the appointment."

Following arguments over the article, Ginat asked that its publication be postponed until after Landau's appointment.

The affidavit states that when Bachar and Ginat were at loggerheads concerning the publication of the article, the supplement editor appealed directly to Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes and asked for his intervention. Bachar told Mozes that Ginat was tainted by a conflict of interest due to his close ties with Landau. After that conversation, the report was published in "7 Days," prompting the state comptroller to examine the affair. A criminal investigation was opened against Landau, and he was not appointed to the IBA.

Loss of trust and support

The conflict sparked by the Yedioth Ahronoth report did not end there, however. Alongside a story on the decision to open an investigation against Landau was an item alleging that most of the information in the article was copied from the NFC (News First Class) Internet site, edited by Yoav Yitzhak.

According to Bachar, the wording of that item undermined the validity of the article published in "7 Days," stating, among other things, "Landau has many rivals who flood the investigative and enforcement authorities with complaints every time he is a candidate for a public position."

Bachar demanded an internal inquiry at Yedioth Ahronoth to expose the source of the allegations of plagiarism, and was later told that they were a mistake. Even so, Bachar contends that the inquiry was a whitewash, and he therefore conducted his own investigation and relayed his findings to managing editor Yoel Esteron and to Mozes.

Two weeks ago Ginat told Bachar he no longer had faith in him following the questions he had received from Haaretz (posed by the authors of this article). Ginat then promptly fired the supplement editor.

"I was shocked," writes Bachar. "There have been differences of opinion between editors in the past, but to the best of my knowledge such differences of opinion have never caused firings."

One day before he was fired, Bachar had expressed his opinion at an editors' meeting regarding the upcoming Knesset elections. He had told the other editors that he believed a newspaper's job was to set the public agenda and combat corruption, adding that apparently Yedioth Ahronoth was leaning in favor of supporting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Bachar claims this, too, led to his dismissal.

Deputy editor of the weekend supplement, Itay Katz, was appointed to replace Bachar temporarily.

Ginat, for his part, rejects all the statements in the affidavit, and expressed his surprise at Bachar's desire to be reinstated if the situation at the paper is indeed as he described it.