UTJ MK Amends Broadcasting Law to Ban Incitement

YERUSHALAYIM -
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler at the microphone during a recent Knesset meeting. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler at the microphone during a recent Knesset meeting. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Resigned editor-in-chief of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Yona Wiesenthal, attending a Knesset hearing on the fate of the IBA. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Resigned editor-in-chief of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Yona Wiesenthal, attending a Knesset hearing on the fate of the IBA. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I’m for freedom of expression,” United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler Eichler told Army Radio on Thursday, “but it is unthinkable that I, as a taxpayer, am paying someone who incites against my beliefs and views.”

“No one should be paid with tax money to give one-sided opinions…using a microphone that belongs to the nation,” he said.

Rabbi Eichler made the comments in an interview following passage of a bill in the Knesset abolishing the Israel Broadcast Authority, which had routinely provided a forum for anti-religious views.

The UTJ representative added an amendment to “avoid one-sidedness, prejudice, expressing personal opinions, giving grades and affixing labels, ignoring facts or selectively emphasizing them not according to their newsworthiness.”

After months of bitter dispute, it was decided by a vote of 25–18 to replace the IBA with a new public corporation.

The amendment, predictably, drew the ire of Israel’s secular-left journalists.

The Union of Journalists in Israel called the article an “addition that was snuck in in the middle of the night and in the dark,” which is “bizarre and harms democracy…and is inappropriate involvement by legislators.”

Israel Radio program host Esty Perez said: “A democratic state that prohibits by law journalists in public broadcasting to express their opinions is showing weakness and panic that is characteristic of a weak dictatorship. Put me in handcuffs. I expressed an opinion.”

Yona Wiesenthal, who recently resigned as director-general and editor-in-chief of IBA didn’t like the amendment either. In an online statement, he wrote: “If I could quit a second time, I would do it after the addition that was put in last night.”

On the other hand, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud), who was given the job of reforming the profligate, debt-ridden IBA, was in favor of Rabbi Eichler’s amendment.

Overall, Akunis hailed it as “a tremendous consumer achievement. Israel needs strong, independent and efficient public broadcasting,” he said.

Army Radio may be next on the chopping block. While there may have been justification for giving the army its own radio station when it started 65 years ago, many are of the opinion today that the money could be better spent elsewhere.