Press Council rejects cooling-off period for politics entry

So-called "Yair Lapid Bill" goes back to Knesset after council decides its unnecessary.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 8, 2011 04:29
2 minute read.
Yair Lapid

yair lapid 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Israel Press Council decided Thursday night not to institute into the council’s ethical code a “cooling-off period” for journalists before they enter politics, sending the so-called Yair Lapid Bill back to the Knesset.

The council decided it was unnecessary, because the code already includes a clause stating that journalists should not put themselves into a position in which there would be a conflict of interests between their obligations as journalists and any other pursuits.

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The Knesset passed two bills in preliminary readings in June 2010, that if enacted, would institute a cooling-off period for journalists before they can get elected.

Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh’s bill calls for a six-month cooling-off period, and Likud MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen’s bill would require a full year.

The bills were then sent to the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, whose chairman, MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), is a strong opponent of the bills. Rotem admitted that he sent them to the press council in an effort to bury them.

The legislation was inspired by the son of the late Shinui leader Yosef Lapid, Yair Lapid, who anchors Channel 2’s toprated Friday night news program Ulpan Shishi, and writes a featured column in the weekend editions of the nation’s most read newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.

Lapid hinted at a speech in Herzliya last summer that he was en route to politics. After a public outcry, he told his superiors that he currently did not intend to enter politics – but if he changed his mind, he would voluntarily institute a six-month cooling- off period.

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The Israel Press Council invited Rotem, Tirosh and Shama- Hacohen to the meeting. In addition, MKs who used to work as journalists, including Shelli Yacimovich and Daniel Ben-Simon of Labor, Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) and Nino Abesadze (Kadima), were invited, but Tirosh was the only MK who came.

Tirosh said addressing the journalists was like going into “a lion’s den.” She added that she was asked cynical questions from journalists from Ha’aretz about why she would limit the media from entering politics, and not soccer players.

“It’s not easy to get people to set limits on themselves,” Tirosh said. “I told them that if they care about keeping journalism objective, they should support the bill, or decide to instead set a cooling-off period via the council’s bylaws.”

Tirosh’s spokesman expressed confidence that she would be able to pass her bill in the Knesset in its final readings.

“If the council would have ruled to set a cooling-off period, we wouldn’t need legislation – but since it didn’t, we will have to do it in the Knesset. It’s already passed the ministerial committee on legislation and the first reading. Passing it into law is a foregone conclusion.”

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