'Leftist Journalists Want To Preserve Monopoly'

Minister Akunis explains why journalists opposed attempt to limit their ability to broadcast opinions.

Shimon Cohen ,

Ofir Akunis
Ofir Akunis
Flash 90

Science Minister Ofir Akunis, who initiated the Public Broadcasting Law that passed last week, resigned in protest at week's end from his position as the the minister in charge of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayhu said he would remove from the law a clause that stipulates that broadcasters must not be biased in their reporting or express personal views.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva before Netanyahu's intervention and his resignation, Akunis said that the new law makes history because it will provide a balanced product that includes all of the points of view within the Israeli public. “This public broadcasting will represent all Israelis, including the ones who feel that they are blocked from the public discourse,” he promised.

"We are expressing the true democracy,” Akunis said. “A democracy that only expresses one opinion is not a true democracy. Democracy at its best is a democracy that expresses the variety of opinions in an equal and balanced way and lets the public judge for itself.”

Akunis denied that the no-bias clause – which journalists were quick to pounce upon as impinging on their rights – would prevent opinions from being sounded. However, he said, the opinions belong within analyses and not inside supposedly objective reports. Analysis, too, should be balanced.

No pro-settlement journalists

“Analysis about any matter should not come only from the Left,” he said. “We do not hear analysts who describe the Disengagement as a strategic catastrophe, just as we do not hear analysts who see the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria as a move with a Zionist value, with unparalleled historic justification, and as being important to the residents of the Dan Bloc as well.”

"The fury of the storm” regarding the clause against bias is not surprising, he added. “Because there is a small group of journalists that does want anyone impinging upon its portion of paradise, in which only it has freedom of expression; it wants a permanent place for its views in the public discourse and it does not want other sectors to have the right to express opinions or analysis.”

"The authority's broadcasts should devoid of unilateral presentation, bias, expression of personal views, giving out marks and placing of labels, hiding facts or stressing them in a selective manner that does not correspond to their news value,” according to the clause that Netanyahu promised to delete.

IBA Diplomatic reporter Chico Menashe called the clause “shameful,” and Foreign News Editor Oren Nahari said it was “ridiculous”: 

"If I take the clause to the absurd end, my colleagues and I may not express opinions about ISIS, the refugee crisis, and the fight between Trump and Clinton,” explained Nahari.