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.
'Lapid' bills pass in preliminary reading
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
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.
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
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
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.