The relevance of the issue of media supervision and regulation, internal or
external, voluntary or legislated, was highlighted again this week when the
subject we treated in last week’s column (“The media’s omerta,” May 2), the
claims of sexual harassment against media icon Emmanuel Rosen, was discussed in
The Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women
convened on Monday afternoon. Among the invited guests were representatives of
government ministries, broadcast bodies, feminist NGOs, religious activists from
Kolech and Takana, groups that assist victims of sexual harassment, and also
Israel’s Media Watch.
Israel’s Press Council did not merit any positive
attitude at the meeting; in fact, just the opposite.
recalled an appeal to Dahlia Dorner, a former Supreme Court justice and the
current president of Israel’s Press Council, made in May 2010, that was signed
by almost 50 feminist organizations and personalities including activists and
The appeal dealt with the decision of the Ha-Ir weekly to
grant Dr. Yitzhak Laor many column inches, extending over 10 pages, plus the
cover page, to respond to a negative report about him published in Haaretz on
February 18, 2010.
Laor had been accused by former students at Tel Aviv
University and other women of harassing them over a period of several years, a
charge he denied. Other media outlets had immediately dealt with the subject,
with Channel 10’s investigative reporting program Hamakor leading the
Despite that petition to Dorner and even the submission of a
complaint to the police, Israel’s Press Council declined to discuss or otherwise
involve itself in the matter.
One published testimony in the Haaretz
story suggested Laor had once passed a woman at her desk at Haaretz and asked,
“Are you wearing panties?” causing her to go to the bathroom to cry. Other girls
came to comfort her, saying she wasn’t the only one.
She complained to
the head of the news desk, Moshe Gal, but he “pretty much laughed it off,” she
Three years later, Dorner had adopted a slightly different
In a segment broadcast over the Educational TV network (ETV),
the Tik Tikshoret (Media File) program this past weekend, itself until lately
hosted by the same Emmanuel Rosen, the matter of the media’s behavior relating
to the case was discussed.
Meirav Batito of Yediot Aharonot argued that
until a charge sheet is presented in court, nothing can be publicized by the
media. But Justice Dorner, who also participated in the panel, promptly
In her view it is permissible to publish information
about sexual harassment, provided that the media takes sufficient steps to
convince itself that the story is reliable and true. But did any media person
consider turning to the council for assistance and aid when faced with sexual
harassment? Presumably the experience in the case of Laor again convinced the
victims that the council is not a positive force and should be even ignored in
The Israel Press Council, as we highlighted back on
September 22, 2011, “does not have any legal means at its disposal to enforce
its decisions....The process by which it decides whether or not to
address a given issue...is not transparent...”
asserted that the “council is lax in imposing its own ethics code on
journalists...when its deliberations reveal unethical actions by media
people, more often than not... the infractions are never corrected in the same
way they appeared... sadly, it would seem that the Press Council is quick in
defending its own, but somewhat slow when considering the... rights of the media
Let us revisit its more recent record.
August 2009, Dorner and the IPC preferred slow, cumbersome bureaucratic
procedures when asked to intervene in response to the publication of pictures of
rape victims in newspapers. Despite a bit of blurring, identification of the
victims was possible, whereas the law is clear: no publishing of rape victims’
photographs is permissible.
The IPC avoided proactive intervention like
A second troubling administrative failure of the IPC was its
handling of a complaint concerning the treatment of one of the writers of this
During Knesset deliberations over the amending of the Channel 10
Law last December, board chairman Avi Balashnikov let loose a tonguelashing,
shouting “evil, evil, hard-hearted evil” in response to remarks Pollack made.
Ran Binyamini, who reported the event, did not broadcast Pollak’s words nor did
he give him the right of reply – an ethical violation. Following the refusal of
the Israel Broadcasting Authority to deal with the matter, the IPC was
The IBA responded to the IPC that Binyamini was
The executive director of the IPC, Arik Bachar, then decided
this was sufficient reason to close the case. In fact, though, the IBA ethics
committee backed Binyamini and forced the IBA to retract the reprimand. Pollak
then requested that the case be reopened. But that has not happened. Bachar
recently wrote in an email: “It is my assumption that I have exhausted all
alternatives of investigation that the IPC possesses.”
One would think
that with her many years on the bench, dealing with the many institutions of
state administration, Dorner would be aware that to enforce the ethics code both
power and an efficient apparatus are required. The media, however, during her
terms in office, have time and again succeeded in avoiding any real punishment
for wrongs, and has failed to put its own house in order. Is she bewitched by
the media’s influence? Something is very wrong in Dorner land.
February last year, the Tel Aviv Journalists’ Association decided to leave the
IPC in protest against Dorner’s election to a third term as the council’s
president. They protested that it was unethical and undemocratic for the current
council to elect its president and that the council should first elect new
The new body, not the outgoing one, should be the forum that
elects its president.
This was the imposition of “a minority opinion on
the majority,” their representative stated.
And as for democracy, in a
media critique column, Dror Eydar pointed out that the commotion surrounding the
Rosen affair and possible suppression of women, including their harassment,
should alert us to another form of discriminatory exclusion and stifling of
personal voices. He pointed out that the media treats not only women with
disdain but also the nationalist camp majority.
He asks, “does the media
not objectify the conservative majority and turn it into something to be
ridiculed?” Journalists with rightist views are not in any positions of power
within the media, he writes. “There are no newscasters or interviewers who ask
questions that deviate from the norm or raise issues other than the ‘accepted’
ones. There is not a single prime-time news show that is run or hosted by a
conservative or rightist journalist.”
And we ask: should not pluralism as
an expression of basic democracy also be a concern? Does the IPC or its
president have anything to say about that? Sadly, Israel’s Press Council, which
could have played an important role in increasing the prestige of Israel’s media
and the respect it should get from the public, has for years done the precise
opposite. It is “part of the club”; it’s actions are not open to public scrutiny
and overall, it has just further convinced the public that something is very
wrong in Israel’s media landscape.The authors are, respectively, vice
chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).