Channel 14 Studio
Channel 14 Studio Photo: Meir Elipur

This morning (Wednesday), the Yesh Atid party petitioned the Central Election Commission with a request to consider Channel 14 and its owner, the billionaire Yitzchak Mirilashvili, as bodies actively involved in the elections.

In the petition, Yesh Atid requests recognition that Mirilashvili and Channel 14 are appealing to the general public intending to influence them to support the Likud party and avoid voting for Yesh Atid.

In the petition, Yesh Atid claims "this is a real threat to the basic principles of the elections in Israel. When a media firm is fully harnessed in favor of a candidate and a party, without balance, it is contrary to every standard of reasonableness, fairness, and common sense."

Submitted by attorney Oded Gazit and Eliram Bekel of the Gazit-Bekel Law Firm, the petition is based on "Amendment V15" which the Likud initiated during the 2015 election period in order to prevent the phenomena of organizations trying to influence the elections with money.

In 2019, the chairman of the election committee determined that the NGO "Darkenu" [Our Way] was active in the elections, and according to the current petition, Channel 14's case is much more serious. It publishes intense, daily propaganda, financed with a lot of money, and presented as objective news. In the petition, Yesh Atid states that senior officials of Channel 14 participated in Likud propaganda, that Channel commentator Yaakov Bardogo took part in the negotiations on behalf of Likud, that people appearing on the channel went to work for Likud or became candidates on its behalf, as well as explicit calls from Channel 14 broadcasters regarding voting in the elections. Yesh Atid argues that all of these require that the channel's broadcasts during the election period be classified as propaganda on behalf of the Likud.

The Economy and Industry Minister, Major-General (Ret) Orna Barbivay, says: "Channel 14 uses a platform granted to it with a government license, to broadcast election propaganda in favor of the Likud party. The petition does not seek to influence the content of the broadcasts, but demands that the channel transparently reports to the public that the content constitutes election propaganda, required by law."

Energy Minister, Karin Elharer: "The petition seeks to expose the fact that Channel 14 is posing as a news channel, and its entire purpose is improper propaganda for the candidate Binyamin Netanyahu. This is a situation that quashes newspapers in Israel, whose job it is to report the truth and to serve the public. For that reason, it harms members of the media who fulfill this task faithfully. Allowing the channel to continue deceiving the public is a real danger to the press in Israel and to democracy as a whole."

Channel 14 responded: "Last month, a senior official sent a message to the channel's management stating that if there is no change in the broadcast schedule that will include a reduction in the appearances of various presenters and commentators, legal proceedings will be taken that will lead to the closing of the channel. Yesh Atid knows very well that declaring Channel 14 a political entity will result in the license being revoked and the channel being closed even before the elections.

"A day when a caretaker prime minister uses a supreme court judge to shut down a media outlet that criticizes him is a black day for Israeli democracy. We invite Prime Minister Lapid to stop his boycott and come to be interviewed on the channel, instead of trying to shut it down,'' Channel 14 added.