Netanyahu: bill to ban free newspapers ‘shames the Knesset’

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

( Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted legislation seeking to outlaw free newspapers in Israel, walking out of Wednesday's preliminary vote on the bill.

The Israeli Knesset came out in favor of a bill intended to shut down the free newspaper Israel Hayom. Netanyahu said the 43-23 vote (with nine abstentions) “shames the Knesset,” according to footage by Knesset Channel television cameras.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told the Knesset, “Those who today support the closing of a newspaper are causing fundamental harm to Israeli democracy.”

The bill, proposed by MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), would ban daily newspapers in Israel whose business model includes free distribution to the general public. That is the model behind the success of Israel Hayom, the country’s most widely read daily newspaper. 

According to market research by the Target Group Index (TGI), Israel Hayom has been the top-read daily newspaper in Israel for more than four years. The latest TGI survey on the subject, released in July, said Israel Hayom has a 39.8-percent market share—more than five percentage points higher than the next-highest-read print newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, is rumored to be behind the anti-Israel Hayom bill.

“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,” Sheldon Adelson, the owner of Israel Hayom, said in an interview with his newspaper earlier this year.

***Full disclosure: syndicates the English-language content of Israel Hayom.

Posted on November 12, 2014 .