Yair Lapid sparks debate

Media chiefs to mull journalist-politician transition

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
June 17, 2010 03:03
2 minute read.
Yair Lapid

yair lapid 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The heads of the nation’s media outlets will soon convene to consider adopting a mandatory cooling- off period for journalists entering politics, Israel Broadcasting Authority director-general Moti Shklar, who heads the National Council of Editors, said Wednesday at a Knesset conference on journalism and politics.

Shklar was joined by politicians, professors and other current and former news executives at the conference, which was convened by Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, sponsor of the so-called Yair Lapid bill, which would legislate a six-month cooling off period for journalists before they could enter politics.

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The bill is named after Channel 2 anchorman Yair Lapid, who indicated at a speech in Herzliya last week that he intended to enter politics ahead of the next election.

Lapid wrote the heads of Channel 2 this week that he would agree to a cooling-off period if he decided to run.

Tirosh will bring her bill to a vote in the ministerial committee on legislation Sunday, and then to a preliminary reading in the Knesset.

But she will wait four months before further legislating the law to enable the editors council to make a decision.

“I don’t want to prevent quality people from the world of journalism from entering politics, but I want them to take a break and keep our press as objective as possible,” Tirosh said.

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Channel 1 journalist Ya’acov Ahimeir said the bill set a bad precedent for legislating journalistic ethics. It was his suggestion to turn to the Council of Editors. Shklar accepted the request to consider a cooling-off period even though he himself vigorously opposes it.

“I think that setting cooling-off periods sends the wrong message – that everyone is corrupt and would only act for themselves,” Shklar said.

Former Channel 2 news head Shalom Kital, who like Shklar opposes the bill, sarcastically suggested a three-year cooling-off period, because a would-be politician would feel it was acceptable to use his media outlet to advance his forthcoming political career as long as he had a cooling-off period afterwards.

Former Ben-Gurion University communications professor Dan Caspi defended the bill, saying that journalistic ethics sometimes required “steroids” to strengthen them.

“The press are the watchdog of the political system,” Caspi said. “They cannot be allowed to join the people they are watching overnight.”

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