2 editors axed over false report

JERUSALEM — Israel Broadcasting Authority Director-General Uri Porat Tuesday fired two senior Mabat news editors for doctoring a report to make it appear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged a soccer crowd's chants of "death to Arabs."

Mabat editor Natan Guthman and deputy editor Elisha Spiegelman were fired for "faulty judgment." Additionally, Channel 1 director Yair Stern and news director Rafik Halabi were reprimanded. No fault was found with the sports department.

Porat, who reported the conclusions of his investigation of the affair to an IBA committee this week, found that the Mabat report had been edited to combine two unconnected parts. Porat concluded that the calls of "death to Arabs," which lasted five seconds out of a three-hour event, were put together with Netanyahu's greeting to create the impression Netanyahu heard the calls and even encouraged them.

This conclusion followed a comparison between the original cassette recorded by Channel 33 from a live broadcast and the one broadcast on Mabat.

Deceiving the viewers caused great damage to Mabat's credibility and to the reputation of the IBA, Porat told the committee. It accepted his findings unanimously, but asked him to reconsider the measures taken against those responsible.

National Federation of Israel Journalists chairman Arye Avneri said Tuesday the problem is not this specific affair, but the campaign that the Prime Minister's Office is conducting, via the appointed IBA director, against the public broadcasting network and its senior staff.

Avneri noted that a few days ago, after Mabat was accused of doctoring the cassette and before the investigation, the IBA spokeswoman already announced "it appears Channel 1 once again took things out of context."

"This is an all-out war, and I foresee a very difficult period for the electronic media," Avneri said.

The Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday discussed accusations that the IBA management is harassing and intimidating Channel 1 reporters. The meeting was held in the absence of Porat, who refused to attend.