Netanyahu opposes new 'gagging law'


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he wants to remove a clause added to a new broadcasting law that prevents journalists on Israel's state channels from expressing opinions on air.

The clause had been proposed by United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler and was supported by the minister in charge of public broadcasting, Ofir Akunis.

It was passed by coalition MKs in the early hours of last Thursday morning, when less than half of the Knesset members were in the plenum.

The clause has been roundly criticised by Israeli journalists from all political sides as a "gagging clause".

It had been added to the controversial new public broadcasting law, which will allow for the restructuring of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

The new reform will abolish the existing BBC-style television licence fee and replace it with government funding.

IBA employees claim that the law opens the way for journalists and other personnel to be fired without requiring the organisation to make it clear how many of them will be rehired or what compensation will be offered to those made redundant.

The "no-opinion" clause is based on the IBA's ethical code created in 1972, and has long been disregarded by journalists, especially on the political talkshows on Reshet Bet, the main current affairs radio station.

In 2013, the IBA's governors authorised a new ethical code allowing journalists to express personal views as long as the opinions were not part of their reporting. Mr Netanyahu's public disavowal of the clause - and the media outcry against it - was a humiliating setback for Mr Akunis, normally seen as one of the most loyal of Likud ministers to the prime minister.

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