Sponsors of a bill that could prevent charismatic journalist Yair Lapid from entering politics succeeded in reviving the legislation this week and could pass it into law as early as next month.

In June 2010 the Knesset passed two bills in preliminary readings, that, if enacted, would institute a cooling-off period for journalists before they could get elected. Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh’s bill calls for that period to be six months, and Likud MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen’s bill would require a full year.

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The bills are inspired by Lapid – the late Shinui leader Yosef Lapid’s son – who anchors Channel 2’s top-rated Friday night news program Ulpan Shishi and writes a featured column in the weekend editions of Yediot Aharonot.

Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), who vigorously opposes the bill, succeeded in burying it for six months by asking the Israel Press Council to develop a professional code of ethics and other means of limiting media abuse by journalists aspiring to politics.

But the press council decided against changing its ethical code, because it already includes a clause stating that journalists should not put themselves into a position that would entail a conflict of interests between their journalistic obligations and any other pursuits.

Following the press council ruling, Tirosh and Shama-Hacohen pressured Rotem to return the legislation to his committee. This week, he caved in and said he would bring it to a vote in January.


“It’s a democracy, so I have to respect the right of the MKs to bring the bill to a vote,” Rotem said. “I can only hope it won’t pass.”

Tirosh said that since she had the support of the coalition and many MKs in Kadima, passing the bill was a foregone conclusion. She said the legislation was important because journalists had an unfair advantage over their competitors, using their role in the media to bolster themselves in their election campaign.

But Rotem has expressed concern that passing the bill would begin a slippery slope toward preventing members of multiple professions that influence public opinion from entering politics.

“If [Canadian pop star] Justin Bieber announced during one of his concerts that he was getting Israeli citizenship and running for office, he would wield far more influence than any reporter, so can we expand the limitation to all fields?” Rotem asked.

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