Monday, December 26, 2011

Netanyahu and Channel 10

Channel 10, one of Israel's two independent news TV stations, ran an expose earlier this year which was embarrassing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some are arguing that this is a reason Netanyahu's government is not allowing the station to postpone its debt, a refusal which may force the station to close:
"'The fight over Channel 10 is partly a matter of revenge — Netanyahu wants to make them pay for what they did to him,' argued Nachman Shai, a member of Parliament from the opposition party Kadima, a former news executive who helped set up Channel 10 a decade ago. 'But it is also part of a three-front struggle — over the courts, civil society and the media. The right wants to control every institution. Freedom of expression is at risk...'

"President Shimon Peres has weighed in, saying that the channel’s effort to survive is 'a struggle for Israel’s democratic character.' In a related comment, he also declared himself 'ashamed' of several bills being considered in Parliament that he believes chip away at Israel’s democratic character — an antidefamation law, one that silences loudspeakers issuing the Muslim call to prayer and another that prevents foreign governments from financing left-wing Israeli groups.

"Last summer, Parliament passed a law making it possible to sue anyone who advocates boycotting things Israeli, including West Bank settlements."

What's really happening here? Israel has always had a strong state internally, and speech restrictions in the name of security are taken for granted. A disturbing trend lately has been restrictions on speech seen by the right as disloyal, meaning that it advocates views at odds with their conception of Israeli nationalism. The linked article, however, does not include much to tie the Channel 10 imbroglio to anything but Netanyahu's political interests. It seems reasonable to fear that he is trying to control the Israeli mediasphere the same way Berlusconi dominated Italy's media, and that this would be bad for Israeli democracy and, given that Netanyahu is a right-wing figure, have the same practical effect as would an attack on the station for ideological reasons.



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