Justice Yitzhak Amit, Chairman of the Central Election Committee, on Thursday morning rejected Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party’s petition to declare Channel 14 an active participant in the election campaign and revoke its operating license. The judge ruled that “freedom of political expression is an integral part of the existence of free elections,” and compelled Yesh Atid to pay Channel 14 and the Likud party NIS 20,000 ($5,600) in court costs.
Yesh Atid claimed that “Channel 14’s broadcasts and its postings on social media constitute election campaign activity, as they spread election propaganda in favor of the Likud party.” Lapid’s party’s petition also accused the channel of attacking Lapid’s left-wing bloc in an aggressive manner “which goes beyond any reasonable standard of journalism.”
Justice Amit ruled that no evidence was presented showing the channel engaged in “election activity.”
“The democratic process is harmed if wealthy entities with a bias subvert the public discussion so that their voice prevails over all other voices in the marketplace of opinions while harming equal opportunities in the election campaign,” he added. “That is what we insist on, against this increasing danger in the modern communication market due to the influence of power.”
However, according to Amit, the Israeli legislator has defined explicitly the meaning of a political election campaign, and “as we see in this case, the petitioner did not show that the activity of Channel 14 to which it pointed falls within the scope of this narrow definition, both in the linguistic aspect and in the context of the legislative history and the aim of the legislation––the activity of Channel 14 cannot be seen as a ‘direct appeal to voters with certain political positions,’ or as a form of propaganda through advertising.”
At the core of the election committee’s ruling stands its finding that there was no monetary compensation offered to Channel 14 in return for its pro-Likud broadcasts, and therefore those cannot be considered to be advertisements.
Channel 14 called the decision “a victory for Democracy.”