Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Tammuz 5759 - June 23 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Opinion & Comment
When Journalists Dare to Speak Out Against the Media
by M. Halevi

A number of Israeli journalists have openly dared to reveal and criticize the Israeli media's "conspiracy of silence," regarding criticism of Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak and his party.

Writing in Ma'ariv, Yoav Yitzchak noted that complaints are often made regarding what the political right refers to as "the antagonistic media." Politicians blame journalists for displaying tendentiousness, for unfounded criticism, and worse than that, for concealing information or hiding criticism of public figures--as long as they are favored by the media. This question has become more pointed during recent months. Outgoing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu raised it over and over again, with the intention of undermining the integrity of the media. And for this reason, the media unleashed a relentless attack against him. Still, according to Yoav Yitzchak, the media's conduct during the past few weeks, proves that it indeed plays favorites.

"The media doesn't give sufficient warning against problematic decisions taken by Prime Minister elect, Ehud Barak, and doesn't go out of its way, to say the least, to reveal what should be disclosed," he wrote. "It refrains from presenting these decisions to the public in the front pages of the paper, denying them their right to discuss them. Barak merits a friendly press, which currently prefers to take a catnap, now that the storm of the elections has subsided. "The press refrains from bearing its teeth, unlike after Netanayhu' election."

For example: the appointment of Dani Yatom, the outgoing head of the Mossad, as the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minster's office. This is a senior and very sensitive position; Yatom will have to deal with such things as negotiations with Syria. Certainly anyone who holds this office should be free of significant failures. "But guess what! This appointment passed by quietly. Except for a few journalists who mentioned Yatom's past, the press at large displayed no opposition to the appointment. It said nothing about Yatom's failures in his position as the head of the Mossad--two of which forced him to resign from his position: the Mishal affair and the arrest of the Israeli agents in Switzerland. "Those two episodes caused heavy political damage to Israel," Yitzchak charged.

"Examination of newspaper cuttings from that period, show that in 1998, the press put much of the responsibility for those gaffes on Yatom himself, and demanded that Netanyahu terminate Yatom's term of office. Netanyahu did so, and the affair ended with Yatom's official resignation. "Now, the press is suffering from collective amnesia, evident from the fact that it has refused to raise the topic of Yatom's qualifications."

The writer also mentioned the Defense portfolio affair. A few weeks ago, Barak announced his decision to reserve the Defense portfolio for himself. During the current coalition negotiations Barak, as the elected Prime Minster, explained to his potential partners, that he had decided to keep the Defense portfolio for himself in order to enable himself to promote the peace talks more effectively.

"It is interesting to note that in the past, Barak believed just the opposite," Yitzchak wrote. In 1995, after the murder of Yitzchak Rabin, he pressed then Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, not to hold the Defense portfolio. Barak wanted it for himself. He then presented a long list of ideological and practical reasons why it was not right or proper for a Prime Minster to hold the Defense portfolio. Peres rejected his reasons, but Barak continued to maintain them. Until now."

Yitzchok also questioned the appointment of several of Barak's good friends to key positions in his government. Some of the appointees have been linked to alleged business improprieties--yet the press does not seem to care. In conclusion, Yitzchak mentioned the issue of election funding. The police Fraud Investigation Unit is currently gathering evidence on organizations that promoted Barak's candidacy for the Prime Minister. The "explosive" issue is liable to embarrass One Israel in general, and Barak in particular, for allegedly benefitting from illegal sources of funding. "Here too, it is interesting to note that the press in general, refrains from giving adequate coverage to these suspicions," Yizchak said.

Another veteran journalist condemned his colleagues whose political views influence their professional work. Razi Barkai charged that many journalists are openly gratified that they brought about the political revolution with their own hands--something that may befit a campaign strategist, but not a supposedly "impartial" journalist. "Some of us have stopped being journalists, and have become peacocks," he says about the recent period in the world of Israeli journalism. "I didn't like their style of writing and broadcasting during the three weeks prior to elections. Some of the things which were said and aired during this period were un-journalistic in a very disconcerting manner."

These journalists "forgot that the Likud is a legitimate movement," and that "Binyamin Netanyahu, whether they like it or not, was elected in 1996 in democratic elections." Its no wonder, Barkai said, that Netanayahu is full of complaints about the press.

Barkai was asked if, nonetheless, anything can be said in favor of the journalists who fought against Netanyahu not because they feared losing their positions, but because, as citizens, they feared another term with Netanyahu in office.

To this Barkai replied: "I don't accept that. I'm a journalist. Period. I have political views. But I chose a profession which has qualifying factors. Some of the journalists have forgotten their profession. If one has decided for example, to be a judge, then from the moment he takes office, there are things which he simply can't do. It is interesting that people like fighting journalists."

"I am familiar with the thesis which states that a journalist is also a citizen. He's also part of the State. In one of his background discussions, Ehud Barak told the reporters, `Don't forget your civic conscience when you broadcast.' Very funny! Does he also think that we should attack him based on that very same civic responsibility?"

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.