MK Chetboun Opposes 'Israel Hayom Bill'

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun says the bill constitutes censorship and interferes with freedom of expression.

Hezki Baruch ,

Israel Hayom
Israel Hayom
Miriam Alster, Flash 90

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun said Sunday that he intends to oppose the 'Israel Hayom Bill' that will be brought to an initial vote in the Knesset plenum Wednesday.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which decides how coalition members will vote on bills that come up in the Knesset, decided earlier Sunday to give coalition MKs freedom to vote as they see fit on the bill, which is intended to shut down freebie newspaper Israel Hayom.

"This is a law with no moral, social or economic message, quite the contrary,” opined the rookie MK. “It has to be stopped.”

The bill constitutes censorship, Chetboun argued, “and brutal interference in freedom of expression.” In addition, he warned, it would bring about the firing of 2,000 Israel Hayom employees, “neuter competition and bring back the days of a monopoly in the printed media.”

"It's a simple equation,” he stated. “MKs are supposed to act in the public's favor and not for foreign interests.”

The paper is handed out at train stations and on the streets, and depends on advertising for its income. It is owned by US businessman Sheldon Adelson, who is considered close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Unlike its mainstream competitors, it is not prone to hounding the prime minister, making insulting comments about him, or writing damaging exposes about his wife's character. 

Nationalists note that the paper also tended to be soft on Netanyahu when he froze construction in Judea and Samaria, released terrorist murderers, and demolished Jewish hilltop communities. 

Critics say the paper fails the test of democratic journalism and serves the government in a way reminiscent of dictatorships, while operating at a large loss. Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett has gone so far as to slam the nationalist paper with the label "Pravda," in a reference to the official mouthpiece of the Soviet Union.

Many Jewish Home voters are dismayed by their party's co-sponsorship of the bill, which risks bringing the nation back to the times in which all mainstream print media was ultra-leftist in character. Some even say it shows that Bennett's aspiration to the post of prime minister has driven him to the point where he is willing to risk damaging the entire nationalist camp, just to weaken Netanyahu. However, inside sources in the party have claimed the support is meant to put pressure on Netanyahu for political purposes, and that the party's MKs will probably withdraw their support at the last minute.