MKs propose 'cooling-off' period for media figures

Bill said to target the future political designs of well-known columnist and news presenter Yair Lapid.

For the second time during this Knesset session, a series of private members' bills raised eyebrows over the weekend when they seemed to target the media for reasons of political expediency. This time, two MKs - MK Carmel Shama (Likud) and MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) - drafted bills that would mandate a cooling-off period for media figures seeking public office, bills believed to target the future political designs of well-known columnist and news presenter Yair Lapid.
Shama's bill would mandate a cooling-off period of six to twelve months, with Shama explaining that "the media is a central and important tool in the democratic dialogue and in shaping public opinion, and in order to protect its independence and objectivity and to prevent politicization, a cooling-off period should be placed on people dealing with the field just as is placed on IDF personnel."
Shama said that he was concerned that journalists will "take advantage" of their positions to build voter support or to gain support for a particular agenda, at the expense of what Shama described as the public's desire for "objective reporting".
Under Shama's legislation, the positions for which a cooling-off period would be deemed necessary included reporters, news presenters, television and radio hosts, regular columnists and editors.
If, however, the Central Elections Committee unanimously rules that a certain media figure had no contact with the political system or with Israeli political agendas, then that candidate would be given an exemption from the cooling-down period.
Tirosh's bill is the more lenient of the two in that it only targets political journalists, mandating a half-year cooling-off period before entering politics.
Because of their cultural influence, argued Tirosh in her bill, journalists should face the same criteria as IDF generals who enjoy similar levels of influence in Israeli society. Neither bill has been submitted yet to the Knesset, but both are expected to be officially filed later this week.
"Running in the Knesset elections or serving as a minister as a person who recently covered politics arouses suspicion that their decisions in the framework of their recent work as a journalist were influenced by their political views, which became public when they joined a specific party list," warned Tirosh.
In the mean time, Lapid has not ruled out the possibility of becoming a politician, although his popular Friday-morning column last weekend included a flurry of attacks on current MKs. His father, former Shinui leader Tomi Lapid, also made the jump from the media to the Knesset, and brought Shinui to previously unimagined electoral heights.
But Lapid would be far from alone as the only MK to have made the jump. MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), and Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Daniel Ben-Simon entered the Knesset following long journalistic careers. In addition, both MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) and Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) list journalism as their primary profession. MKs Orly Levy (Israel Beiteinu), Yulia Shamolov Berkovich (Kadima) and Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) all also made names for themselves as television personalities years before they stepped through the Knesset's threshold.