Freedom of the press was almost lost 

Source: Freedom of the press was almost lost – Israel Hayom

Ariel Kahana

Lt is impossible not to be filled with rage at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in light of the facts and accusations the attorney general has leveled at him. The most serious of the three cases of alleged corruption involving Netanyahu is not the one in which he is accused of bribery, but actually Case 2,000, which has to do with the publication you are reading right now.

The collusion Netanyahu is accused of cooking up with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes is serious not because the purpose was to weaken Israel Hayom, but because if the deal had succeeded, it would have shaken the foundations of Israeli democracy.

It’s no secret that Israel Hayom, then as well as now, has taken a positive line about Netanyahu and his policies. This was intentional, the result of similar ideologies and worldviews. However, if Netanyahu and Mozes had managed to “turn the ship around,” as they reportedly said in the series of meetings they held, it would have meant that the two biggest newspapers in the country would have been unduly influenced by the prime minister. From there, it’s not too far a leap to the loss of freedom of the press, and that is the worst part of this case.

But the question is whether such a terrible act can be judged in court. After all, Case 2,000 came into being because, until Israel Hayom started giving Yedioth a run for its money, the market for Israeli public opinion was run like a cartel.

Yedioth Ahronoth was a monopoly in its field and was even defined as such by the Anti-Trust Authority. Yedioth boosted and dropped politicians based on various considerations, including business ones. No one dared to take it on. It is impossible not to ask why, of all the deals Mozes made in the days he worked with politicians – including the proposed anti-Israel Hayom bill or his secret meetings with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, his excellent relations with Tzipi Livni and more and more going back decades – only his alleged deal with Netanyahu is being put under a legal microscope?

That exact same question pertains to Cases 1,000 and 4,000, too. If accepting presents from friends is illegal, would the police and the State Attorney’s Office be so kind as to clarify whether the late President Shimon Peres returned the many gifts he was given? Would they look into who supplied the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s wife, Leah, with appropriate clothing, and how? Would they explain why former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s pens were acceptable, but Netanyahu’s cigars are not? Would they give us an answer about why the enormous benefits former Communications Minister Dalia Itzik gave business mogul Haim Saban were not worth of being investigated, then or now? And of course, could they give a serious answer to the question of why regulatory benefits to the Bezeq telecom company in exchange for favorable coverage on a Bezeq-owned website (Walla) are considered bribery, whereas the bill that several MKs and ministers supported that was solely designed to prop up the bleeding Yedioth was never investigated at all?

These questions echo even before Netanyahu has responded to the counts in the indictments. Those answers, no matter how repulsive some of the acts Netanyahu is alleged to have committed are, could change everything. Because we must remember that guilt or innocence are not decided on TV screens or on the front pages of newspapers or at least aren’t supposed to be. There are plenty of instances where a conviction seemed like a sure thing but ended with the suspect – including some public officials – being exonerated.

That is what happened to Alon Hassan, Yaakov Neeman and Avigdor Lieberman and in one of the cases against Olmert. So despite the media carnival, everyone should take a deep breath and let things play out. Even in times like these, everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. Yes, even Bibi.

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