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Israel’s Communications Minister of Darkness

TJI Pick
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Israel's Communications Minister of Darkness

Published: 1 September 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Minister Shlomo Karhi is proposing a jaw-dropping legislative plan to control the country's extremely public broadcasting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship pincer movement against the media industry (or rather the rational and professional segments of the industry), runs along two axes.

Back in his first term as prime minister in the 1990s, he had marked the industry as an enemy. The first axis involves giving generous resources to a growing and increasingly sophisticated poison machine. The second involves regulation and the economy.

Over the years, the Communications Ministry was an inflamed appendix in the government’s body. Such a ministry isn’t supposed to exist in a Western country. There are models galore of independent, professional agencies that oversee the media. Previous communications ministers who have spoken honestly, such as Moshe Kahlon and Gilad Erdan, have admitted that it would be better to dismantle the ministry and create an agency that would be divorced from the politicians.

And then Shlomo Karhi came along.  Karhi, a hateful communications minister, conducts himself as if he were fallout from Itamar Ben-Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party. But he’s a more poisonous Likudnik from the party’s “Yair Netanyahu faction.”

Karhi is proposing a jaw-dropping legislative plan. At a time when Israel is one of the most ingratiating of countries toward the real media giants – Google, Facebook and X (Twitter) – he wants to make the country extremely rigid and dominant over traditional media, which is barely managing to survive (even prior to the blows that he and Netanyahu plan to deliver).

Such a thuggish move by the unenlightened minister is a bid to dismantle the little power that independent media outlets in Israel still have – to cause their economic collapse and impose political commissars over them who would do Karhi’s bidding. The commissars who ran Pravda could learn from this.

The “Karhi reform” is one of the most dangerous pillars of the government coup.  

At the same time, Israeli Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal-Atbaryan has mounted a concerted effort to gain control over the Government Press Office (GPO), stating in private conversations that she wanted the authority to deny press credentials to foreign journalists critical of Israel.

Earlier this summer, the Foreign Press Association slammed  Distal-Atbaryan after she released a GPO-produced video decrying “fake” news from international media outlets.

Her attacks on the international press “could endanger reporters in Israel,” the association, which represents hundreds of foreign correspondents in Israel, said in a statement, asserting that the use of such language “undermines the values of democracy and a free press.”

Israel's Communications Minister of Darkness (Haaretz)

Netanyahu's Hasbara minister wants to revoke credentials of journalists critical of Israel (Haaretz)  

The Democratic crisis has started. What should Israel’s security chiefs do? (Yuval Diskin and Eli Bahar, Haaretz)
Never have the heads of Israel’s security agencies borne so great a responsibility. They and their colleagues are the last barrier standing before the collapse of democracy and the rise of tyranny.

Photo: A protester at an emergency conference held by Israel's public broadcaster Kan in response to a plan to close it. The sticker reads, 'We are all Kan,' and also translates to, 'We are all here' (Tomer Appelbaum)

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