Netanyahu urges followers to stop attacking media

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Posters calling for the dismissal of Israeli Channel 1 news anchor Haim Yavin and Channel 2 political correspondent Gadi Sukenik were seen at the Likud's victory rally Sunday night, where thousands of activists reacted angrily when Netanyahu first mentioned the word "media."

IBA workers expressed concern over the Likud's threats, and especially about MK Limor Livnat's statements about privatizing the IBA and its allegedly faulty operation during the campaign. The workers noted that privatizing the IBA meant firing at least half of them.

Livnat, who has been mentioned as a potential communications minister, said, "It is not vengeance which propels us to privatize the IBA, but our world view."

Nevertheless, "We have too many causes for grievance when it comes to the electronic media, in particular Channel 1," she said.

"Its attitude was one of unmitigated discrimination against the Likud. There is a tendency among its journalists to demonize all Likud politicians and supporters, and to glorify all those on the Labor side.

"The journalists' private inclinations are too often expressed in the way they treat issues on the air. Their attitude to anyone who does not share their opinions and agenda is supercilious and confrontational. Likud politicians are interviewed with hostility and are cut off before completing a sentence."

Livnat said that "the tendentiousness of the electronic media reached unprecedented proportions on Election Day. The radio kept telling voters every half hour that Jewish right-wing extremists were seeking to assassinate [Shimon] Peres. Throughout the day, they kept exhorting Arab voters to come out and vote to save Peres and prevent a Likud victory."

But the media was "biased before Election Day, too," Livnat added. "We could hardly get an interview for Netanyahu and when we fixed a date, they kept changing it again and again, until they found a spot at a time in which the ratings were lowest. If Peres refused to appear on the same program with Netanyahu even in separate interviews Netanyahu was simply excluded. He never got equal time and when he was finally interviewed, it was with unconcealed animosity and attempts to belittle him and nearly each of his replies was cut off by repeated carping comments."

But, according to Livnat, "it is not any of this which which leads us to consider privatizing the IBA. There is no reason for it to continue existing at public expense. Our philosophy is that all state-owned enterprises ought to be privatized, and the IBA is just another one of them."

The National Federation of Israeli Journalists denounced the Likud leaders' assault on the media and warned that it could even spark violence against journalists.

The union's director, Razi Guterman, called on Netanyahu to stop the threats.

"The hostile atmosphere they are building up will seep into the public and cause violence," Guterman said.

"We've already witnessed Likud slogans against the media. It's amazing that even before the Likud has formed a government, its first act is intimidation and threats to settle accounts with the media. It won't work. The journalists performed their work in a balanced, professional, and reliable way. The opposition was by no means discriminated against."

Labor Party Secretary-General Nissim Zvilli blasted Livnat for what he called her "campaign of threats and incitement" against the media.

"It's frightening to find out that the first step the Likud takes after its victory, even before setting up a new government, is an attempt to shut mouths and prevent any criticism of the new regime," he said.