Calls to boycott Army Radio as pro-Netanyahu radio host dismissed

Opposition MKs announced a boycott of Army Radio as others called for its privatization following the dismissal of Yaakov Bardugo.

 Yaakov Bardugo speaks the conference of the Israeli newspaper "Makor Rishon" at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Yaakov Bardugo speaks the conference of the Israeli newspaper "Makor Rishon" at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israeli political commentator Yaakov Bardugo, a supporter of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, was dismissed from his Army Radio evening broadcast on Thursday.

Army Radio was heavily criticized for giving a platform to Bardugo, who was accused by critics of spreading lies and propaganda live on air in support of the former prime minister.

Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that Bardugo’s dismissal was “evidence of the Left’s trampling of democracy and freedom of speech. Army Radio is trying to shut the mouth of every right-wing commentator. The Right cannot be silenced and Bardugo cannot be silenced.”

Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich also criticized the decision to fire Bardugo.

“The ‘cleansing’ of Army Radio, along with other deep and long-term damage caused by the current left-wing government, will take years to repair,” he wrote on Twitter.

 Israelis protest outside the Army Radio music station (Galei Tzahal) headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 19, 2021 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Israelis protest outside the Army Radio music station (Galei Tzahal) headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 19, 2021 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Former public security minister and Likud MK Amir Ohana said that he will boycott Army Radio due to Bardugo’s dismissal, and urged others on the political Right to join him against what he called the “North Korean radio station.”

“In light of [Yaakov Bardugo’s] dismissal and until further notice, I will no longer be interviewed by Army Radio,” Ohana wrote on Twitter. “I call on others protesting this Bolshevism to join me in the boycott. I had enough of the slave mentality. They need us just as much as we need them.”

Following discussions held between the heads of the opposition factions, it was decided that in protest of the dismissal, all opposition MKs will no longer be allowed to be interviewed by Army Radio. The opposition also called for the closure of the radio station.

Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana noted that Israel is the only Western nation with a radio station controlled by its military.

“It is time to privatize Army Radio!” Kahana wrote on Twitter.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has been reported over the last 12 months to be in favor of shutting down Army Radio altogether. After reports came out in April stating the IDF and the Defense Ministry were in agreement over the need to shut down the station, the Union of Journalists in Israel submitted an urgent appeal to then-attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit to stop Gantz from doing so.

Mandelblit issued a legal opinion last month saying that Gantz should not close Army Radio without a full-fledged Knesset law, including the transparent public debate that such a process makes possible.

Mandelblit said closing Army Radio without a law allowing it would be “legally difficult,” since it would be a major shift in a long-standing policy or norm. However, the former attorney-general said that he would likely not have declared such a move illegal as long as it was done by a formal government decision, as opposed to a mere decision by Gantz himself.

The decision to dismiss Bardugo was made by Army Radio Interim Commander Gali Altshtein, who is a Gantz appointee.

Bardugo, who hosted the 5 p.m. news broadcast for the past six years, will continue hosting the Friday morning “Thoughts Ltd.” broadcast.