Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua on Monday told the Jerusalem District Court
presiding over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public corruption trial that he and a senior editor referred to Netanyahu as “Kim,” a reference to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Yeshua said he and senior Walla editor Avi Alkalai did this because they felt pressured to tilt coverage toward Netanyahu.
“All the requests of politicians over 13 years might be equivalent to one week of requests from the prime minister and his wife [over three years],” he said. “Also, the quality of their requests was not as intense as what was here” with the Netanyahus.
Yeshua said he faced a revolt within Walla, and there was a revolving door of editors leaving in protest.
Top Walla personality Yinon Magal once asked Yeshua, “What is the abomination we are doing here?” and threatened to go directly to Netanyahu to get him to drop the requests to tilt coverage.
Netanyahu was hit with the first concrete testimony of allegations of the Case 4000 media bribery scheme against him as Yeshua told the Jerusalem District Court he was ordered to tilt coverage in favor of the prime minister and his wife, Sara.
“At the end of 2012, requests started to come from [Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul] Elovitch to favor positive articles for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife, Sara,” to reduce the prominence of, and take down, unflattering articles and to attack competitors such as Naftali Bennett.
Yeshua alleged that he was “abused” by Netanyahu’s messengers, and that they “were so beaten down” that they “and other reporters started to self-censor and avoid doing critical pieces” on Netanyahu.
The drama was palpable, with Yeshua revealing Netanyahu’s alleged massive efforts to carry out a public character assassination of Bennett just when the Yamina Party leader is currently weighing whether to secure Netanyahu’s future as premier or to topple him.
Yeshua was describing the background to Case 4000
, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, which is the most severe of Netanyahu’s three alleged public corruption affairs.
The allegations are that Netanyahu favored Elovitch’s Bezeq in his communications policy in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla website.
Elovitch’s lawyer Jacques Chen shot up to object that Yeshua was testifying about new issues not mentioned in the indictment.
The court is due to rule about whether these new issues can be part of the trial later this week, he said, adding that the prosecution should not raise them until the court rules.
Netanyahu lawyer Boaz Ben-Tzur also objected to Yeshua’s reference to attacks he was ordered to post on the Walla website against Ayelet Shaked, Yamina’s No. 2, and Uri Ariel.
Regarding Chen, the court asked the prosecution to hold off on the disputed evidence until later in the week. However, regarding Shaked and Ariel, the prosecution quoted from Yeshua’s police statements to show that the evidence was not new.
Ben-Tzur then dropped his objection.
Yeshua’s testimony followed the prosecution’s opening statement earlier Monday.