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Reporting Scandals and Media Bias

12 January 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Likud supporters and politicians are attacking the media for a pro-Labor and Left bias, especially in light of the latest scandals attributed to the Sharon family and Likud primaries.  They claim Labor scandals are either ignored, not covered in depth or enjoy a very short media ‘shelf life’.  They are correct, but this does not absolve the Likud and the Right from adhering to the letter of the law.

No doubt, the news media in Israel has a very heavy liberal bias.  The daily Ha’aretz is hard line left wing (especially on security and foreign affairs) with the most popular Yediot Ahronot definitely left of center.  Only Ma’ariv can be considered centrist while there is no serious right wing publication.  TV channels One (state owned) and Two (private) are generally pro-Labor while the major radio stations are somewhat more balanced (including the Army station).

Coverage of scandals on the Right are more in depth and investigative reporting of irregularities on the Left are usually done by Ma’ariv, although not always.  The mess on the Left is generally played down while the Right gets the spotlights.  The Likud  deserves the present media attention but Labor should not be allowed to gain from the bias.  Illegal activities must be exposed wherever they surface and no one should benefit from benign neglect.

The last time corruption was a major issue in an election campaign was in 1977 when everyone covered the Labor scandals which included Leah Rabin’s illegal US bank account.  The press correctly took part in uncovering these violations of the law.  In major editorials much of the press advocated ejecting Labor from power.  They had a point.

Today a good portion of the population detests Israel’s news media, a very bad sign if one cares about democracy.  The left wing bias has existed since just after the Likud took power in 1977 and was intensified in the 1990’s when the Oslo Accords were hotly debated.  Opponents could barely find a mainstream outlet to express their opposition to the agreement with the Palestinians.

The media is supposed to be a watch dog for democracy, uncovering illegal activities and extremism while allowing for equal time arguments on all sides of the legal political spectrum.  Furthermore, one would hope they had secured the public trust in order to do an efficient job and be seen as an honest critic of society in general.

Instead they are seen as partisan, having betrayed the public trust of half the nation, a very bad omen.