The expected closure of Channel 10 will deter Israeli journalists from pursuing
hard-hitting news that goes after Israeli politicians, a prominent journalist
from the channel told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“I know for a fact
that right now people are scared to do such things [investigative reporting]
because most of the media outlets in Israel are in a weak economic situation and
need the government more than ever, and they don’t want to make them angry when
they see that they can be so brutal,” said Channel 10 Reporter Raviv Druker, one
of Israel’s most prominent journalists and one of the most recognized faces of
Druker’s statement came a day after the Knesset Finance
Committee voted eight-tofive against a request by Channel 10 to postpone by one
year the repayment of an NIS 60 million debt to the state.
As a result of
the vote, and if a sudden influx of funds does not emerge, the channel is
expected to face closure and hundreds of employees will be without
Druker said the effect on the Israeli media landscape of the vote
is that “[at] least in the short term, nobody will dare to establish a new news
company – at least in the kind of sense of channel 10 – which means a critical
news company, one that makes investigative reports on the PM or political
While he said that the vote would be a “disaster for Channel
10 and the people who work here,” Druker avoided making dramatic pronouncements
of doom and gloom for Israel’s democracy, saying “Israeli democracy will be hurt
by this but I don’t want to exaggerate and say it will make us a new Iran. I
think it [Israel] will continue to be a democracy even if channel 10 is forced
to shut down. But the scenario of a lack of real competition in the TV press is
something we should avoid.”
He added that he sees a great importance in
having more than one commercial news network in Israel.
Druker has been
widely seen as one of the central figures in the decision on Channel 10’s debt,
with many saying that his investigative reports on Prime Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu and his bureau, in particular the “Bibi tours” affair, drew the ire of
the Likud-led government.
In a report in Haaretz in November an anonymous
source at the channel said people within Netanyahu’s office were trying to force
the channel to fire Druker.
Druker said he has no proof that the vote was
personal, saying “everything I hear is from people who heard it from other
sources. As far as I know there are all types of messages that related this
crisis to my work.”
Shuki Tausig, editor of the 7th Eye, an Israeli
website that critiques Israeli mass media, said that he believes that a source
of money will be found and Channel 10 will not close, but that if it does,
Israeli journalism will suffer.
“I don’t believe that it [Ch.
will close, but if it happens, it’s one less place for investigative journalism
– one less place for commentary – less democracy, if you like.”
did add that he believes the channel is an asset that is worth enough money, and
with too much influence, to close without someone wanting to take it under their
He also said he wasn’t convinced that the Channel 10 saga
represents a clear case of an anti-democratic campaign waged by the
“I don’t think that it’s antidemocratic, there are many
people who are saying this and there are those who are saying there is a
political agenda behind it, but no one has brought a smoking gun to prove
He also warned that there is potential danger that a wellmoneyed
savior could swoop in and save the channel, as a means of opening a channel of
influence with the government.
Dr. Yuval Karniel, a senior lecturer at
the Sammy Ofer School of Communications at the Interdisciplinary Center in
Herzliya and an expert on media policy, law and ethics in the media, and
commercial advertising, said Monday’s vote is part of a broader campaign of
anti-democratic measures targeting the Israeli media.
“What we see now
is, in my opinion, part of the battle being waged between politicians and the
media and we see this not only with channel 10 but also in regard to the
[reforms facing the] Israel Broadcasting Authority, Israel Educational
Television, the slander law, is part of this general picture of an attack on
independent, free media [in Israel].”
Karniel said however that he isn’t
convinced the government is looking to close Channel 10, rather “it could be
that the goal is simply to deter journalists and news outlets from independent,
critical work against the country’s leadership and politicians.”
said the motivation for such a campaign could be what he described as a marked
rise in media influence on daily life in recent years.
politicians saw the power of the media and how it can enlist the masses and they
asked the question: Who leads the country; the elected officials, or the media
which has achieved great power? And many people have reached the conclusion that
they [the media] must be reined in, and they must show the media outlets that
they are not more powerful than the leadership.”
Karniel did lay much of
the blame for the situation on Channel 10 however, saying that they erred by
putting themselves in a position where they were reliant on the charity of the
government, and that hopefully if they are closed, the next media outlet that
takes their place will learn from these mistakes.