Sheldon Adelson on freedom of information

Distribution of copies of the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom in Jerusalem. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If you can't beat 'em... try to pass legislation to ban 'em?

That's what business magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson believes Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon (Noni) Mozes has done in an effort to grab back market share from the Adelson-owned Israel Hayom, which for the last four years has overtaken Yedioth Ahronoth as Israel's most widely read daily newspaper.

Mozes is rumored to be behind the Israeli Knesset bill that seeks to outlaw the distribution of free newspapers—such as Israel Hayom—in the Jewish state. Adelson, in a newly published interview with his own newspaper, takes aim at Mozes.

"It should be obvious to anyone who reads about this that the amount of power Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes has is unspeakable; he can tailor a bill just so he can eliminate competition," Adelson tells Israel Hayom. "It is a tailor-made bill that will only impact Israel Hayom. ... The fact that he has the chutzpah to submit a bill for the sake of eliminating competition or boosting his financial wellbeing opens the door for a future scenario in which he dictates anything he wants. This is completely intolerable."

Asked if the proposed Israeli bill would violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Adelson says, "To restrict the circulation of information is an out-and-out violation, in both letter and spirit, of the constitution. Freedom of speech is the basic hallmark of democracy, the first thing people refer to in a democratic system. And to deprive the citizens of the freedom of getting information simply because somebody is threatening the MKs and somehow incentivizing them to eliminate a competitor means that the MKs are not doing their job. When you represent the people, your interests are supposed to correlate with their interests. To take away their right to know is an intolerable and unforgivable situation."

Shas party MKs Yitzhak Vaknin and Yitzhak Cohen, two of the Knesset members involved with the bill that would ban Israel Hayom, have withdrawn their support for the measure.

"I don't want to interfere with freedom of business and the fight between two newspapers. If the owners of Yedioth Ahronoth believe it isn't fair that Israel Hayom is distributed for free, let them distribute their own paper for free and profit from advertising as Israel Hayom does," Vaknin, the deputy Knesset speaker, said last Thursday.

Posted on May 12, 2014 .