'Tremendous pro-Netanyahu pressure on news outlets'

Former news editor Yinon Magal claims there was 'tremendous pressure' not to publish reports critical of PM, says PM should stay in office.

Tzvi Lev ,

MK Yinon Magal
MK Yinon Magal
Hadas Parush/Flash90

Former MK Yinon Magal admitted that there was "tremendous pressure" on him not to publish material criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu when he worked as an editor for the Walla news site, but denied that the premier should resign over bribery allegations.

On Tuesday, police announced that it believed Netanyahu should stand trial for bribery and breach of trust. In the probe nicknamed 'Case 2000', investigators contended that Netanyahu attempted to reach an illicit quid pro quo with Yediot Ahronot publisher Arnon 'Noni' Mozes that would provide him with positive news coverage in exchange for shuttering rival newspaper Yisrael Hayom.

Speaking with Army Radio on Wednesday, Magal said that he was pressured to paint Netanyahu and his family in a positive light while he was the editor-in-chief at Walla. "There was intense pressure exerted from the top to direct coverage in the Netanyahu's favor," said Magal.

Walla is one of Israel's leading news sites and is owned by Saul Elovitch, a close Netanyahu confidant.

Despite Magal's allegations, the former MK said that he supported the prime minister and called on him to stay in power. "Bibi saved this country from the tyranny of Noni Mozes," alleged Magal. "I remember what happened before that-Bibi is the only politician who didn't' cooperate with him."

"In general, every politician was in Mozes' pocket," continued Magal. "Bibi was the only one who saved the country from this and ensured that the ones who ran the country were elected by way of the ballot box."

"They're going to try him for that specifically? It's absurd."

Mozes has long been rumored to have provided politicians with positive media coverage in exchange for favors that benefited his media empire.

Mozes' Yediot Ahronot newspaper once wielded an extraordinary amount of influence in Israel, with some observers contending that it reached more than 50% of the public at its height. However, the addition of the pro-Netanyahu Yisrael Hayom daily in 2007 caused Yediot Ahronot's profits to slide into a freefall, especially after Yisrael Hayom surpassed Yediot to become Israel's most widely read newspaper in 2010.

According to police, Netanyahu promised Mozes that he would pass legislation, dubbed the “Israel Hayom Law”, banning the free distribution of newspapers, in exchange for promises from Mozes that his paper would tone down its criticism of the premier.