- Title: Netanyahu attacks Israeli media, singles out investigative journalist
- Date: 8th November 2016
- Summary: JERUSALEM (RECENT) (REUTERS FOR POOL) ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER ARRIVING AT WEEKLY MEETING OF HIS CABINET NETANYAHU DURING CABINET MEETING CLOSE OF NETANYAHU MORE OF CABINET MEETING
- Embargoed: 23rd November 2016 14:53
- Keywords: Benjamin Netanyahu Israel Media Public Broadcast Corporation Ilana Dayan
- Location: JERUSALEM/ TEL AVIV AND HOLON, ISRAEL
- City: JERUSALEM/ TEL AVIV AND HOLON, ISRAEL
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00157L59HJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an unprecedented attack of the Israeli media on Monday (November 7), accusing a leading television journalist of being part of a plot to bring down his right-wing government.
After declining to be interviewed by Channel Two anchorwoman Ilana Dayan for a piece investigating the workings of his administration and the role his wife plays in appointing officials, Netanyahu's office sent a written statement.
The statement accused Dayan, among other things, of having no professional integrity and of plotting against Netanyahu's government. Dayan read it in its entirety on air.
"Ilana Dayan is one of the leaders of an orchestrated attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, intended to topple the right-wing government and bring about the establishment of a left-wing government," the statement said, referring to popular disaffection with the media that is seen by two thirds of Israelis as left-leaning, according to a survey last year.
It also said the public had lost trust in the main media organisations, which it said had abandoned all restraint in their propaganda against Netanyahu and his Likud government.
"Dayan's show...demonstrates well why the media industry needs reform. The prime minister is determined to open the market up to competition that will add a greater variety of opinions, as well as an efficient national broadcaster."
The statement astonished commentators. While Netanyahu is known for his fractious relationship with the media, few expected such an angry and personalised assault.
It comes at a time when he and his close associates in the Likud party face criticism for their haphazard efforts to shut down the existing state broadcaster and set up a successor.
Critics fear Netanyahu -- who has largely avoided on the record interviews with the Israeli press, preferring to distribute statements and videos by YouTube, Facebook and Twitter -- is now going after broadcast outlets.
In 2014, Netanyahu agreed to create a new public broadcast network, which says it will be ready to go on air in January. It has already hired 500 staff with plans to take on 150 more.
But now Netanyahu wants to pull the plug on the operation. He has not said why, but allies have talked about the soaring costs while the chairman of his coalition, David Bitan, said in October it was because of its bias against Netanyahu.
Bitan said that the corporation has been 'hijacked' by people whose agenda is leftist and anti-government. Bitan even said he had checked the Facebook pages of some journalists working at the new broadcaster and "saw the things they write... these are people who are characteristically left-wing... they want to implement their agenda."
Netanyahu's volte-face over the network is now causing problems in his coalition. Meanwhile, critics claim that he is obsessed with the media and is trying to control it in a way that will decrease media freedom in Israel.
Last week in Tel Aviv, scores of journalists and other media professionals gathered to protest against Netanyahu's move to shut down the new public broadcaster.
"It's not going to be a dictatorship. The limits of democracy have been narrowed in the last years and he (Netanyahu) has put his hands on the written journalism. But we won't let him take also the television," said Osnat Trabelsi, Head of the Documentary Film Makers Association in Israel during the protest.
The country's most widely-read newspaper is a free sheet called Israel Today, owned by U.S. casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, that is relentlessly pro-Netanyahu. The prime minister also serves as communications minister, giving him regulatory powers over the sector.
Freedom House, an international media freedom group, this year downgraded Israel's ranking to "partly free". Some commentators have compared Israel unfavourably to Turkey and warned of a wider clampdown.
"What we see is an across the board attempt by Mr Netanyahu and his government to control all forms of media," said Elad Man, legal adviser of media watchdog the Seventh Eye.
"I think we all know and we can name examples of countries that the media and press are not free and what's the implications of such a situation. We don't want to be there."
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